- Francis James
A Cycle Familiar, Feared and Inevitable.
Updated: Jul 29, 2020
“I saw Death’s face today
As he took my friend away
I saw Death’s face today
As he cast his shadow over me”
The words of Winston McCall.
I get it. I’ve not experienced what he’s described in The Colour of Leaving, but I’m closer than I’ve ever been, or ever realized.
Death didn’t lead him away today. Thank God.
But Death came knocking - to deliver a message. I knew he’d show up eventually. Always knew in the back of my mind. Death has a funny way of showing up when you least expect him. I want to be mad at Death. I want to hate him, but I can’t. Death is a part of nature. The natural cycle of life. It is what it is. It is. Simply, it is.
Today I heard Death. I heard his hissing presence through a wheezy cough. I thought, “no, can’t be. I must have misheard Death for temporary Sickness. I was wrong. Glad I was too, because at least I know.
I looked out the window at the clouds that had formed between my world and the sun. The warmth of the sun was gone, and the cool breeze, too cool for a summer day, came through the window and rested upon my skin, chilling it to goosebumps in the afternoon light. And I saw him down the street. I was hoping he was just visiting another house on the block. But I knew, in the back of my mind there was a good chance he was visiting my home. It was the wheeze. It was a cough and a wheeze. It was labored breath that called Death to the scene. I knew it was Death, preparing me for a message to be read. Because the sun had been blocked for just a little while, directly over my home. The clouds eventually parted and I sat there waiting. I heard no knock, no bell, no footsteps. I saw no black shrouded figure. I heard no deep and dark footsteps. I saw no thing darkening my doorway. At first.
So I went about my day assuming I had dodged a bullet. For a little while, I was at ease.
“No, please.” I whispered in my own head.
“Knock knock”. Tears formed in my eyes. The weight of water caused breakage. It flowed down my cheek into my mouth. Her eyes too. They welled with pain and fear.
All of the sudden I regretted every negative experience. I regretted any moment I didn't appreciate life. Another’s life, of whom I was responsible. Of whom we were responsible.
Tears rolled to our cheeks when I opened the door. I had no choice. I had to open it. You can’t leave the knock unanswered. Ever. Regardless of who it is. You just can’t. Lest you like surprises of the devastating kind.
Death dealt me a look. Not much to look at, a shrouded figure with no face. Whatever head was under that hood was hidden within the blackest shadows. He handed me a piece of paper.
I read it. I read it aloud. We cried. It sucked. It hurt. Reality set in. It was to happen eventually. It was to happen “soon”.
Luckily for us, Death wasn’t here to collect now. This was just a notice.
“Soon” it said. Not so bluntly, there was much more to it, in written ink and lines between the lines, but the message was clear. “Soon”.
I cried more. I still cry as I write this. I will cry. I plan on it.
The future holds tears and sadness and regret. But that’s the product of love I guess. Love lost in the hail of verbal gunfire that is “soon”. Love eventually lost in the hail of gunfire that was “I will protect you, and take care of you, and keep you safe, and make you feel loved”.
Not sure exactly when but time is running out. The hour glass is emptying. This is life though. C’est la vie. The natural cycle. All's well that ends well. That’s the goal. An end-well. It will be, I’m sure.
We don’t know when “soon” is but that message will be in the back of our minds. The image unseen will be hidden away until we can hear the trumpets blowing and the sky unfolds for us and floods us with tears and pain. Eventually, that image will be mercilessly burned into our retinas. Inevitable. When that blow comes it will take our breath away. It will drain the life from our eyes, and blood from our veins. Our hearts will drop, like a metric ton of brick from six stories up.
My breath is almost gone now. Labored, like his.
But I have to keep thinking of the best times and the amazing times that are to come. Because “soon” is not now. Eventually it will mean “now”, but not right now. Right now we look forward to “later, another time, not right now”. So right now we rest. Right now we appreciate. We love. We love so hard. We love and cuddle and love. In every and anyway we can, we love. Hard as fuck. We love like we haven’t loved before. We love like we’ll never be able to love again. We give him the love he deserves. The most love. Eternal love. We give as much love as our eternally loved souls have been given from God himself. We truly love him. We have taken care of him, and he is our boy. His heart is filled with love for us, as our is for him. My boy.
It’ll be fine. It’ll suck so damn bad. But it’ll be fine. It’ll hurt but it is a fact of life. It will be the worst day of my life, but there will be more “worst days”. This will be one of them. But it will pass. And in the end, it will be fine. Because we all know the undeniable truth:
All dogs go to Heaven.