As I lie awake in the wee hours, I think of death, not so much mine as Peggy’s. I don’t believe I could live without her. I don’t believe I would want to live without her. I think of my own death too. I’m 62, and we’ve lived in this house 21 years. Those years flew by. In another 21 years, I’ll be 83, which is statistically longer than I can expect to live. This means that death is practically at the door, and when I look at my life, I wonder what it was all about. What did I accomplish? Not much. What was I thinking? Not much. Why am I not trying to atone for those years while I still have time? Because I feel defeated by how little time I have left. Yet, there’s another part of me that thinks there will always be another tomorrow. After all, I don’t remember a day so dark that this wasn’t true. Try as I might, I can’t conceptualize non-existence.
I’ve lost many people to death. Some were old, and their deaths were expected. Others died tragically (I’ve always been attracted to tragic souls), and few people remember them. Yet, I carry them in my heart everyday. I thought all too little of our time together when they were alive. Then they died, and I realized how much they meant to me. Every moment I was with them now seems like a rare jewel. I try to take this awareness into my relationships with the living, but a reticency stops me. It’s easier to be intimate with the dead because the dead cannot reject me. The dead can be whatever I want them to be.
I’ve lost many dogs to death too, and I miss them even more than I miss the people. This is because dogs are like children—they’re dependent, ever present, and their lives are built around me. If I’m kind to them, they have a good life, but if I’m unkind, their life sucks. They die all too soon, and then I wish I had been even more kind. I never feel that I make the grade whether with humans or with dogs. I’m simply not good enough. I always want more than they can give, yet I can never give as much as I think I should. I want to work through these problems before I die. I want to feel that I did at least one relationship right.
As I was writing this, I learned that my friend, Carl Haga, died this morning. He and I and two other men played pool once a week for years, and only two of us are left. Now I have another jewel to carry within my heart.