“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.
But that is not for them to decide.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
“I do not fear death.
I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born,
and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”
― Mark Twain
(Albrecht Durer / Knight, Death and the Devil 1513)
Back around 1973, when I was more of a youngster than what I am now…
I remember finding a paperback book in a bookstore that I just had to have.
I think it was the cover that drew me in.
Ryan O’Neal and Tatum O’Neal sitting perched on a cutout of a crescent moon.
The book, Paper Moon, was actually the movie title based on the book
Addie Pray by Joe David Brown…it was simply renamed in 1973,
which is when Peter Bogdanovich directed the film.
The story, set in Depression era Alabama, is about an orphan named Addie
and a man named Moze who is a drifter and scam artist.
Moze who meets Addie following the burial of her mother, agrees for a fee,
to take Addie to relatives in Missouri.
With much of the underlining thought being that the drifter / conman
is actually the young girl’s biological father.
The story is about not only their actual journey to Missouri and the
myriad of scams they pull trying to make a fast buck,
but it is also a tale of the journey of self discovery.
I never did go see the movie but I imagine it was probably pretty funny as well as moving
as the storyline is one of humor as well as sorrow.
What I remember from the start of the book is that Moze had a particular scam
that would take him from town to town reading a local paper’s obituaries.
He would then make note of the names of those who were recently widowed, names
sounding as if they had money.
He’d next call upon the recently bereaved widows explaining that their recently
deceased husband had paid for a very expensive engraved bible but that the
deceased husband had only paid down a deposit on the bible and was
in turn to actually pay the balance when the bible was delivered.
Moze would then claim that he had come to deliver the bible as the widow
was now expected to pay the outstanding balance.
I think that was my first exposure to not only conmen,
but to the notion that death could
in turn equate to big business… as in a means of profit.
And I can now attest to the fact that, with both sound and knowledgable authority,
that there is not only big business running throughout all of life,
but that there is indeed big business to be found in death as well.
The Spector of death has certainly been hovering about my life as of late.
I think he hovers around all of us, that Spirit and Shadow of death,
but it’s just that we are more aware of his presence at certain times during our lives
more so than others.
If you had told me last Thursday that dad and I would have been chatting today
about Clemson’s big win over Alabama Monday night, I’d have told you that you were crazy.
From Tuesday, when Dad was sitting up eating chocolate covered doughnuts to Thursday,
when he was incoherent,
more out of it than not as his breathing was shallow and erratic at best…
I just knew our time had grown greatly limited.
(This is where I would insert a picture, but the picture is too sad to share)
The Hospice nurse had even come out to tell me those things they tell people
when Death is closer then we care for.
The idea of goodbyes was looming as it was a long hard day…
that is until late that evening when Dad seemed to come back to the present…
wanting a bowl of soup as he also wanted to know the times of Saturday’s NFL playoff games….
So my cousin, who is more brother than anything else, told me after our Thursday’s scare
that it would probably be a good idea if he and I made plans to met with those folks
whose jobs it is to deal with all things death.
Such as the funeral home, the cemetery, etc…..
Of which we did today.
Dying, death and burial is just as costly as living…if not even more so it seems.
And maybe that is because it comes in one huge lump at one single time as life and living is
spread out over time.
As in death, time becomes a bit of a moot point.
Yet during all of our planning and arranging…during all of the heavy decisions that we were wading through and deciding on…those sorts of things that one normally muses over briefly from time to time
preferring rather to linger only momentarily and casually…
I was struck by something other than the sheer costs behind funerals and burials…
Whereas we can prearrange, arrange and rearrange all we want here on this earth…
what with our lives and our dying…
It all pales in comparison when it comes to what is actually going on
once we take our last breath.
Maybe it’s because I have had Death’s presence so close to me these past several
months…such that I have found that the here and now is not nearly as important
as to what comes next.
There are so many folks who are concerned with living and living well,
that they run like hell,
far away from any thoughts of what comes after when the good living is all but over.
Maybe it’s because of a shallow and empty belief system,
maybe it’s due to fear of the unknown…
but no matter what the reason, as I am now all too aware,
the importance if found not in how we live…
but rather the importance is actually found in how we die.
That is not to say that our deaths are to be melodramatic or rehearsed…
as that is nearly impossible because for most, death is instantaneous…
both without time nor thought.
And it is for that very reason that the thought of death and dying must come long
before it is really all too late.
Because I know that when one takes one’s last breath…
something else entirely different begins.
And it is only up to each of us to decide what exactly that beginning is to be all about…
And if you think thoughts about God and Jesus,
Heaven and Hell,
life and living,
sin and death…
are all fodder for the superstitious or simply the mumbo jumbo of the sick and elderly…
you need to reconsider you thoughts….
Because there is something which is much more expensive waiting on you other than the cost
you will be leaving behind….for those who remain for when you die….
For it is truly a question of Life eternal
So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.
The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable;
it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness,
it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
1 Corinthians 15:42-44