Friday, April 13, 2007

Continued Pondering

I’ve had thoughts and dreams recently about living and dying. As several of you suggested, “living” is probably just a metaphor for “retirement” for me. But my mind is also preoccupied by thoughts of my friend Florence who is dying. “Where worlds collide” was the theme this week, or so it seems.

It was appropriate I suppose that my last book purchase was Billy Collins’ collection “Questions about Angels”. This poem of his seems a good way to end this week of contemplation:

The Afterlife

While you are preparing for sleep, brushing your teeth,
or riffling through a magazine in bed,
the dead of the day are setting out on their journey.

They are moving off in all imaginable directions,
each according to his own private belief,
and this is the secret that silent Lazarus would not reveal:
that everyone is right, as it turns out.
You go to the place you always thought you would go,
the place you kept lit in an alcove in your head.

Some are being shot up a funnel of flashing colors
into a zone of light, white as a January sun.
Others are standing naked before a forbidding judge who sits
with a golden ladder on one side, a coal chute on the other.

Some have already joined the celestial choir
and are singing as if they have been doing this forever,
while the less inventive find themselves stuck
in a big air-conditioned room full of food and chorus girls.

Some are approaching the apartment of the female God,
a woman in her forties with short wiry hair
and glasses hanging from her neck by a string.
With one eye she regards the dead through a hole in her door.

There are those who are squeezing into the bodies
of animals – eagles and leopards – and one trying on
the skin of a monkey like a tight suit,
ready to begin another life in a more simple key,

while others float off into some benign vagueness,
little units of energy heading for the ultimate elsewhere.

There are even a few classicists being lead to an underworld
by a mythological creature with a beard and hooves.
He will bring them to the mouth of a furious cave
guarded over by Edith Hamilton and her three-headed dog.

The rest just lie on their backs in their coffins
wishing they could return so they could learn Italian
or see the pyramids, or play some golf in a light rain.
They wish they could wake in the morning like you
and stand at a window examining the winter trees,
every branch traced with the ghost writing of snow.


Which group will you find yourself in?

I'm still processing a piece given to me by a friend and entitled "The Death of Sir Walter Raleigh". I've read it 3 or 4 times, each time seeing new things. Maybe soon I will be prepared to write something about this as I work this living-dying thing out of my system and move on to something perhaps more upbeat...


Blogger Kristin said...

I'm working under the "Live like you're going to die tomorrow, but plan like you're going to live forever" philosophy. I've been so busy I haven't thought much about what's going to happen with the actual dying. Maybe more like that last, lying in my coffin and wishing for one more morning.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

I am in the category of those struggling to move forward and do things so I do not lie in my coffin wishing I had done something.

12:10 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

I think whatever you believe is going to happen to you is what happens. But you can wake up from any one of those delusions and merge with God.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- Live for the moment!

Richard -- Just do it!

Reya -- Que sera sera!

Such interesting and yet different comments from 3 of my favorite readers.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I will definitely be moving around with white wings, singing, and saying hi to all those I know and catching them up on all the news, if they don't already know it!

5:19 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

MOI -- Yes, I can imagine you in the heavenly choir. Maybe I'll join you there at some point!

5:51 PM  
Blogger steve said...

"I'm not scared of dying
and I, don't really care
if it' s peace you find in dying,
well then, let the time be near

If it's peace you find in dying,
well then dying time is near
just bundle up my coffin,
'cause it's
cold way down there,
I hear that it's
cold way down there, yeah
crazy cold, way down there"

I hope that its an event of some sort... a tragic thing full of Drama and Excitement...what I dont want is to slow down and get slower and slower until I am just not there anymore...My folks kinda did that and it seems a hard way to go all around. Let it be quick.

As things go these days, i don't know what my next move is and I guess life just be's that way sometimes. Maybe a barrel over Niagara Falls would be nice. I really need more to do with the kids almost out of school.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Steve -- I loved BS&T, and I especially loved this song and Spinning Wheel.

I'm with you on the not lingering part. I want just enough time to say goodbye, but none of this drawn out wasting away stuff, no thanks.

Thanks for making me sing this song in my head just one more time and remember the time I first heard it, not exactly the happiest time in my life.

7:12 PM  

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