I have no answers for this — only questions


And death shall have no dominion.

Dead men naked they shall be one

With the man in the wind and the west moon;

When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,

They shall have stars at elbow and foot;

Though they go mad they shall be sane,

Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;

Though lovers be lost love shall not;

And death shall have no dominion.

–         Dylan Thomas


Strong and pungent sentiment from a man who died at the not advanced at all age of 39.

Not meaning to be morbid, but the last few days have exposed me to the mortality of at least a couple of people I hold dear, and one whom I knew slightly. One was a man whom I knew via his wife, with whom I worked for years. He was a great guy. Bigger than life, ebullient, upbeat and a brilliant teacher. He was the one who recognized the notable intelligence of my step-daughter when she was in 9th grade and pushed her into accelerated math. She balked at first, but never really looked back. Whether or not she does from the vantage point of her masters degree is for her to say.

Anyway, his death came as a great and distressing surprise. Combine that with the fact he was a half-decade younger than I am and you might imagine my discomfiture. It frightens a fellow, if  I am to be honest.

The other was a former newspaper colleague. She was the production foreman at our operation and I came to know her well. Smart editorial sods learn to get along well with production or they will rue the day they chose not to. Those who choose not to can welcome a working life of some misery. She was much older than I, and the last time I saw her a few months ago I was upset by her obviously frail health. But, I’ll miss her. She was an imposing presence. Much larger than life, physically and in every other way. Of Ukrainian descent, she was in fact a virtually “professional Ukrainian”. Those growing up in Western Canada will know what that means.

She was also a fine human being. She spent her later years after retirement working with the benighted children, most of them HIV-ridden, in Ukrainian and Romanian orphanages. She didn’t do it for any glory. She did it to satisfy a certain Christian yearning that she had.

I admired and liked her and her death leaves something of a void for me. Maybe that’s self-indulgent, but I think she’d understand. 

The third one was another teacher. As I say, I did not know him well. Just sufficiently to say hello, but again he was around my age.

“Every death we face diminishes us just a little bit,” said my late mother-in-law a number of years ago after the death of one of her brothers. I didn’t fully appreciate the sentiment at the time, but now I understand it perfectly. Funny how that works.

I didn’t mean this blog to be negative or any sort of a bring-down, I just felt like getting this stuff off my chest. I am also anticipating no answers to such eternal verities. We are what we are and we are above all mortal. How we handle it is up to us.


9 responses to “I have no answers for this — only questions

  1. “It frightens a fellow, if I am to be honest.”

    Oh yes, it does indeed! Since clocking up my half century, more and more people I know – relatives or friends or former colleagues – have shuffled off this mortal coil or are fighting some illness or other.

    So it goes, as Vonnegut used to say, but the swish of death’s scythe seems to get a bit closer all the time.

    I need a drink….

  2. I’m sorry for your losses. It is frightening. I, myself, intend to go kicking and screaming if at all, but would much prefer to live forever.

    Experiencing the deaths of others should serve to mobilize us to fully enjoy our own lives, and to not put off really living until a later, more convenient time which at best is questionable.

  3. Death is unnerving. I am sorry for your losses, and to have so many close together, you do feel the “diminishing” more abruptly.

  4. I can feel for you. My first loss (outside of my family loss of a grandmother I barely knew) was my best friend at 14 years old; she had a faulty heart and it killed her. For years, I felt I had to grab hold of everyone I loved, lest they be wretched from the world and from me, leaving great, gaping holes in my heart and my psyche. And I lost more people in my life. When another good friend died (motorcycle accident in Mexico, almost 20 years ago), I realized that I couldn’t go on like that: I had to live. Really live. “Suck the marrow out of life.” Live all the good, all the wonder, so that when Death stares me in the face, I can go into it joyfully, arms wide, without regrets, to embark on a new adventure.


  5. Sometimes in those scary hours of 3am when I can’t sleep I try and imagine being dead – that endless nothingness – and then it is impossible to get back t0 sleep.

    All I can say is that I am not a religious person -not one bit of me is – but a few months after my mother died I saw her in the bedroom. I know she came to say goodbye to me and even though it didn’t make me start to believe in god, it did make me believe in something living on after we die.

  6. So sorry for your losses. You’re not morbid at all, just human.

    “Every death we face diminishes us just a little bit.” There is a lot of wisdom in your mother-in-law’s words.

  7. Whaddaya mean I’m gonna die??!!
    Nobody told me I was going to DIE!
    I don’t WANT to DIE!!

  8. Well said.

    The days do tick off. It’s good to realize that and have a certain degree of consciousness in how we face them.

  9. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. I am caring for my father-in-law at the moment following the recent loss of his wife and he is here for dinner right now.

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