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A Letter From The Other Side – A Life Remembered

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Have you ever looked at an object, animal, person or even a reflection of yourself and thought ‘this is the last time I’ll ever see you’? No, I don’t prescribe to a doom and gloom outlook on life. Quite the opposite. In fact so diametrically different that my good humor and indifference to consequences is more burden than  asset. But this morning was different. I looked at the mirror knowing absolutely that it would be the last time I’d see myself in a mirror or pane of glass. This, without doubt, was my last day on the right side of the earth.

The morning continued with me trying desperately to change fate. I switched the morning routine and other daily habits that come without forethought. Milk in the coffee, shave then brush, put on a sock and shoe and repeat, tucked in the glow-in-the-dark tee shirt then left for work.  Driving on the interstate I kept in the right lane, fearing a vehicle launching from the southbound lanes into the northbound fast lane. That’s happened on I-81 so many times and that, I vowed, was not the way I would enter the afterlife. No head on crashes, no accidents at all. When I go, if it is indeed to be this day, will be easy and painless. A sudden heart attack like the one that took my father in a split second is what my dad will pass on to his son, I pray.

I turned on the radio and dared that to be a break from normalcy. No conservative talk shows this morning, I dialed to the end of the chart to find NPR. The silly drone of arrogance made me almost giddy and brought an outward smile to a dying face. Those people! So smart yet so, so dumb. Going on about how their model of temperatures recorded in the past 100 years  was relevant to the history of climate weather for the past millions of years. How could they be so gullible?! But, that’s what makes the world go round: Opposing opinions argued to a fault on both sides and here, in the America, we are fortunate enough to hear the debate on public media. God bless the USA!

I drove on, nearer to work and thanking God I’d made it this far without incident. I’m not a particularly religious person nor am I an atheist or agnostic. I believe in God, in Jesus Christ but never knew how to pray to Them. Asking for fortune or divine healing always seemed so trite. God was going to do what He knew best regardless of our pleading. With that in mind, I defied my beliefs and prayed “God, please be kind” and stopped at that. Who was I kidding? God would do whatever He wanted. I’m wasting what little breath I have left.

Calling my wife came to mind but why bother her with my festering insanity? No point in worrying her. I would be home in the afternoon with these thoughts dismissed as the folly of aging. Maybe I should call my children. And say what? I love you, see you in heaven or hell or wherever? No. Another dumb idea worth passing on. I drove on to Harrisburg, turned up the radio now tuned into classic rock to relive the ‘good old days’. That’s when it happened.

Fittingly, Stairway to Heaven was filling the interior of my car and head when a flash burst from out of nowhere. There was no life passing before me, no visions of mom or dad, no pets that I used to love so much, no disembodied voice plying “Follow the white light”. No. A flash of light and I was on the road again driving with to no destination. Somehow I knew but denial kept me from accepting.

The road ahead was floating, black and hot. Vapors from the heat, I hoped but knew the cloud was much more. It was my life. Not passing before me but swallowing me whole. I drove on reflecting on how it had all gone wrong.



The mist of my life dismissed the tragedy ahead. What appeared to be the last moment of my life was rudely interrupted by a familiar but unwelcome ringing. Awake now, paying attention to the here and now, I looked at the caller ID to see it was my brother calling.

What did he want? To share another intangible idea to sweep him ( or us) to fame and fortune?  Like the $42 bobber that we’d dreamt of for the past forty plus years. A fishing bobber with built in radar to find and hook fish all on its’ own. Deprived of a way to have the bobber perform the nastiest chore of baiting itself, we never pursued that invention. There were numerous bizarre and even less plausible ideas over the years and a few that we should have followed through on. A way to buy postage stamps online with self imposed images was one we almost achieved. The research was done, the ducks were in a row, but, in the two years we lollygagged with the details another more ambitious person, or persons, came up with the same idea and today it is a multimillion dollar business. Oh well. We can honestly say that we thought of it first. So what was it now? I flipped the phone open and said “Hey bro. What’s up?”

The voice on the other end was not my brothers, it was a female voice crying so hard that I knew in an instant why she called. The end that I saw coming, the ‘other side’ that loomed so close, was not my own. It was my brother’s. He, like our father and mother, had died in an instant. Working on his own invention that he was having much success with, Dennis felt a gasp of breath needing fulfilled and stepped out of his basement workshop to fill his lungs with life. His dog, following at his side, watched as his master fell to his knees then lay on the grass. There was no air to be had, there was no life left to breathe. Dennis was gone to be joined with our parents and to enjoy the promises of heaven.

Daisy, his Golden Retriever, had no more understanding of why his devoted owner had passed than you or I. Death is known but never understood. Why now? Why ever? Why him? Why her? We will always be left with these questions until we do know, and that can only come with our own passing. What will always haunt us is not a ghost of lives past, but the ultimate unanswerable question of ‘What if?”

What if I had done this or done that. What if I said this or said that. Would that have made a difference? Would they still be alive if only….Questions that have no answers may be the only dumb question one can ask. Dumb yet inevitable. Those of us that have survived the death of a loved one know that ultimately there is person alive that can answer the question of life. We are left with the process of grief and pray that acceptance comes quick.

I remember the days after my father’s sudden death as if it were yesterday, not forty two years ago. He was everywhere. Nary a moment passed in a crowd of people that I didn’t see my father. I’d walk at a hurried pace to say “Hi dad! I knew you were still alive! Oh my God! It’s yo…” but of course it wasn’t him. The same hair, the same posture even the same gait but it wasn’t my father I’d run over to.

Mom died suddenly in a house fire only a couple years after dad died. I was so steeled by now that seeing her after she passed had not the same frequency. Once in a while, sure, but only when I was weak with remorse. I wanted to see her but knew from prior postpartum sightings of my father that it was best to let the image pass. No point agonizing. Life must go on.

Now, only weeks past Dennis’ last breath, I find myself not seeing visions of him in a store or on the golf course but I do have to stop myself from calling him. Why did my computer do this? I’m driving by your house, will you be home a while? Did you see that? Did you hear what Limbaugh said? Passing thoughts without thought. I stop myself and let a tear fall. Then another and another until manhood won’t allow another tear to rust the armor.

The realization that I am the last survivor or our immediate family is overwhelming. How could I, the one who deemed caution to be weakness, be the one to write the next to last obituary for this family of four? It should have been me first, not me last. Why? Why ask why? I seem to stuck with the penultimate of dumb questions and must let the tears be those of joy not sadness.

Being happy seems to disgrace the memories of my mother, father and brother. How can I be happy when they are gone? To be honest, I am not glad, I am not smiling. My normal good humor is distant but not gone. Like the memories of my family, I will push on to keep their lives important. I will create memories for my children, for my wife and for all those that are bound by family and love to keep us all alive forever. It will take time but isn’t that all we have? Time to live, time to heal and time to love until the end of time.

Today I drove the dangerous highway to Harrisburg without fog or clouds to impair my vision. No end of life coming head on from across the lanes. Today I live.


Written by boofeeder

July 12, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Posted in death, dying, fate, god

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  1. […] A Letter From The Other Side – A Life Remembered. […]

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