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» Hatrack River Forum » Archives » Landmark Threads » Distant Thunder at a Picnic--My 5,000th Post

Author Topic: Distant Thunder at a Picnic--My 5,000th Post
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While this is admittedly a somewhat morbid post, it's not as dark or confessional (or as long) as my now-forgotten thousandth post, so have no fears of continuing reading on that account. [Smile]


And again I find myself posting a landmark in the evening hours (a Friday night no less!) so that it can fall to oblivion without being seen by half of Hatrack . . . [Wall Bash]


If anybody's missed me over the last month or two, you probably guessed that my absence was caused by the annual end-of-year madness teachers go through. I otherwise find that I'm at my most prolific post-wise when I should be doing something else (as now, when I should be catching up on bills, paperwork related to my certification, and housecleaning), so I have learned in the past year or so to be very strict with myself when crunchtime comes around. When I make a resolution like "No Hatrack," I can pretty much stick to it, whereas "Not too much Hatrack" quickly becomes a meaningless promise.

This school year pretty much ended the way it began. In September or thereabout, Cor's grandmother in California passed away, and we had to take off several days that we could ill-afford to fly out to her funeral. Late this May (like a day or so before final exams began for underclassmen), Cor's grandmother in New Jersey passed away, and we had to fly suddenly to New Jersey to attend her funeral, taking an unpaid day off from work because all of my sick days were used up.

(Is there anything more crass and selfish than using deaths in your spouse's family to prompt your landmark post? :\ )

Both grandmothers were in their nineties. Cor comes from a long-lived bunch. Her father is pushing eighty and could probably beat the crap out of me. (Okay, that's an exaggeration, but only slightly.) We didn't have a lot of contact with the grandmother out in California, because of how far away she had always lived, but the one in New Jersey was a prominent figure throughout Cor's life, and I grew to have a great deal of fondness and respect for her. Her death was not unexpected--in fact, our itinerary on our trip to New Jersey to visit her this last Spring Break was turned on its ear when her health took a sudden (and ultimately, unreversed) downturn. But intellectual knowledge that death is imminent doesn't take away its sting, and the knowledge that somebody's life was full does not give comfort when she is gone.

Anyway, I don't have much experience with death. It's a mixed blessing, because it's due to the fact that I have so little family in this country. I have some distant cousins on my mother's side in Tampa, and some distant relatives on my father's side in southeast Florida, but most of my maternal family lives in Cuba, and most of my paternal family died before I was born, and my parents were never the type to keep in contact with distant relatives. So basically it's just my father, my grandmother, and me.

That's not to say I have never known anybody who died. I remember the grandfather of one of those distant cousins dying when I was very young, but he was very old and I never really knew him. I remember when my mother's father passed away, but again, he was largely absent from my childhood. Same for when his sister passed a few years earlier. A college friend of mine died a year or so after we both graduated. We had both gone on to graduate school in South Carolina, she in Charleston and me in Clemson, and we had talked on the phone of getting together some day, in our single communication since graduation. She was killed when a woman in a stolen car fleeing police ran a red light. A colleague of ours died a few years back, but he had only been with the school a year, and he was an elderly, grumpy loner who worked clear across campus. (He actually had the single classroom in the administration building, and it was on the second floor, to boot.) And that's about it. Death has always been at a remove, and I have never had anybody I would truly call a loved one taken from me.

In recent years, I've become--well, I don't know if obsessed is too strong a word or not--with death. Some of you know that the first decade and a half or so of my life were pretty unpleasant, and that I attempted suicide at fourteen. At around eighteen, my life started to take a giddy upturn (or perhaps an intensifying of the upturn that had begun years earlier), and I was possessed with this manic certainty that I was indestructible. Of course, all teenagers and young adults are supposed to feel this way, but I believed that God the Author would never cut down in his prime a character who had overcome so much. It seemed like poor storytelling to me, and thus it was impossible. After a few years of stupid-risk-taking, realization slammed into me: IDIOT! Have you observed NOTHING?!? If there is a God, then clearly His favorite literary technique is IRONY!!! Having overcome a lot and reached the reward of a good patch of life only makes you MORE likely to die!!! (Besides, I broke up with The Girl eventually anyway. [Big Grin] ) Having once held the gift of life in so little regard that I attempted to throw it away, I now have this sense that there will be a karmic price to pay now that I want to stick around. I have this gut certainty that I will not last long, and I find myself always thinking in terms of keeping things in order in case I leave my family suddenly. (Better make sure this document's easy to find . . . better not leave anything lying around that could hurt anybody's feelings . . . et cetera)

I am not at peace with the idea of mortality. I read or hear people say they are not afraid of death and I believe to my bones that they are delusional or disengenuous. I don't mean to be insulting if I am describing you, just explaining how thoroughly my usually keen sense of empathy abandons me on this point. Not only do I not feel that way, I can't really imagine feeling that way. I am afraid of death. I want to live forever and see everything. I can't take comfort in religion, because in the last decade or so I seem to have lost my ability to believe. I sometimes wish I believed, but I find I cannot wrap my rational brain around some of the concepts I once held as articles of faith. Feel free to pray for me if you are a pray-er. I don't take comfort in the idea of a life after this one; this life is the only one I know, and the thought that what is can be snuffed out strikes me as an outrageous indignity. How can all that we struggle with, obsess over, and feel come to so little?

Unlike Cor, my line is not a long-lived one. Especially not on my father's side. Basically, he and I are the only living males in his line. I'm not aware of any that made it to sixty. He will turn 58 this month and doesn't look like he will make it too much further. About four years ago he had quadruple bypass surgery. Two or three years ago, he had angioplasty and retired on the advice of his doctor. He is also diabetic. In the last year or so, boredom (I suppose) has led to his once again taking up smoking. On a daily basis, we have a clear indicator of his current health just by looking at how swollen his ankles are due to fluid retention caused by his excessively weak heart. That and how quickly he gets winded. The past few weeks have been scary, as medicines he has had to take for a persistent cough (caused not by a cold but, again, by his weak heart) have interfered either with his blood pressure or his blood-sugar level.

My father was not a man who knew how to relate well with small children, but as I reached adulthood, we developed the closeness which was perhaps lacking when I was a child. I consider him my best friend. We don't speak of "mushy stuff," because that's just not how we ever learned to relate, but each of us knows how the other feels. He knows I don't approve of his smoking, but I don't want to spend the last years of his life nagging and fighting. Better, it seems, to appreciate him while he is here, and be thankful that he has lived long enough for my daughters to know and love him.

But what to do with my impotent anger at his cavalier attitude toward his own life, when his death will cause the rest of us so much heartbreak?

(Yeah, yeah, irony. Shaddup.)

(I don't really believe it's cavalierism so much as avoidance. Any attempt to live more healthily now will likely only extend his life by a relatively small amount, he probably thinks, at the cost of his little pleasures. Facing the impossibility of avoiding death would bring despair, and so instead he ignores it altogether where he can. At least, that's how I would feel. *shrug*)

I am not ready to lose him. I don't think I ever will be, but I at least want my daughters to have him for as long as I've had my grandmother. I want him to be there when they graduate from high school, when they graduate from college, when they get married, when they have children. My grandmother is in her early eighties, and in the space of four years or so has gone from an unbelievably spry woman who took care of herself and was active in her church and in ministering to those less fortunate, to living in a nursing room and not being able to remember which room is hers, and alleging that they do not feed her when they quite clearly do. I owe what childhood I did have to her, because she saw my parents' inadequacies and took it upon herself to compensate for them. I have never been as close to her as an adult as I was as a child, because she could never get used to seeing me any other way than as a child of four or so, but I owe her more than I can express. I am not ready to lose her either.

So what do I do? I am trying to make the best of the time that I have, particularly with my father. (He lives closer to me, he is closer to me, and, quite frankly, he might not last as long.) I speak to him at least once a day, I see him at least three or four times a week, and I have dragged him into my hobbies. Heck, I call him up when I need to go grocery shopping, and we go together. [Smile] I have tried to share with him experiences he has not had before, or that we have not shared before. When we drove to New Jersey in the spring, we brought him along so that he could see that part of the country. Same for when we went to Biloxi right before the start of the school year. We just brought him with us on our cruise, the only cruise he has ever taken in his life. I hope one day I get the opportunity to return to California, and bring him with me. In the last year or so, he's had a few opportunities to hear me perform, which he had not had since I was a kid. I'm not trying to sound selfless here. I am not giving; I am taking. These are needs I have: to share as much of life as I can with him while I have him around.


My goodness. I knew I intended to write about death, but I didn't think this would come out quite so maudlin. It's not my intention to ask for advice or sympathy, but to share a slice of what's on my mind at this point in my life. I figured some people might find it interesting, and we might even have an interesting conversation about how we approach and deal with death. I always come to Hatrack, not to change opinions or to have my opinions changed, but to better understand other people and their different ways of seeing life. So I'm curious to understand those of you who are at peace with the notion of death.

So Geez, how can I lighten this up?

I know . . .

Ol' Fred had been a faithful Christian and was in the hospital, near death. The family called their preacher to stand with them.

As the preacher stood next to the bed, Ol' Fred's condition appeared to deteriorate and he motioned frantically for something to write on.

The pastor lovingly handed him a pen and a piece of paper, and Ol' Fred used his last bit of energy to scribble a note, then he died.

The preacher thought it best not to look at the note at that time, so he placed it in his jacket pocket.

At the funeral, as he was finishing the message, he realized that he was wearing the same jacket that he was wearing when Ol' Fred died. He said, "You know, Ol' Fred handed me a note just before he died. I haven't looked at it, but knowing Fred, I'm sure there's a word of inspiration there for us all."

He opened the note, and read, "Hey, you're standing on my oxygen tube!"

An old preacher was dying. He sent a message for his banker and his lawyer, both church members, to come to his home.

When they arrived, they were ushered up to his bedroom. As they entered the room, the preacher held out his hands and motioned for them to sit on each side of the bed. The preacher grasped their hands, sighed contentedly, smiled, and stared at the ceiling. For a time, no one said anything.

Both the banker and lawyer were touched and flattered that the preacher would ask them to be with him during his final moments. They were also puzzled; the preacher had never given them any indication that he particularly liked either of them. They both remembered his many long, uncomfortable sermons about greed, covetousness, and avaricious behaviour that made them squirm in their seats.

Finally, the banker said, "Preacher, why did you ask us to come?"

The old preacher mustered up his strength and then said weakly, "Jesus died between two thieves, and that's how I want to go."

In some foreign country a priest, a lawyer and an engineer are about to be guillotined.

The priest puts his head on the block, they pull the rope and nothing happens -- he declares that he's been saved by divine intervention-- so he's let go .

The lawyer is put on the block, and again the rope doesn't release the blade, he claims he can't be executed twice for the same crime and he is set free too.

They grab the engineer and shove his head into the guillotine, he looks up at the release mechanism and says, "Wait a minute, I see your problem...."

Unable to attend the funeral after his father died, a son who lived far away called his brother and told him, "Do something nice for Dad and send me the bill."

Later, he got a bill for $200.00, which he paid. The next month, he got another bill for $200.00, which he also paid, figuring it was some incidental expense.

Bills for $200.00 kept arriving every month, and finally the man called his brother again to find out what was going on.

"Well," said the other brother, "you said to do something nice for Dad. So I rented him a tuxedo."

After dying in a car crash, three friends go to Heaven for orientation. They are all asked the same question: "When you are in your casket, friends and family are mourning over you, what would you like to hear them say about you?"

The first guy immediately responds, "I would like to hear them say that I was one of the great doctors of my time, and a great family man."

The second guy says, "I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher who made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow."

The last guy thinks a minute and replies, "I'd like to hear them say...... LOOK, HE'S MOVING!!!!!"

OLD TEACHERS never die, they just lose their class.
A blonde goes into work one morning crying her eyes out. Her boss, concerned about all his employees' well being, asked sympathetically, "What's the matter?" To which the blonde replies, "Early this morning I got a phone call saying that my mother had passed away."

The boss, feeling very sorry at this point, says to the young girl. "Why don't you go home for the day.....we aren't terribly busy. Just take the day off to relax and rest."

The blonde very calmly states, "No, I'd be better off here. I need to keep my mind off it and I have the best chance of doing that here."

The boss agrees and allows the blonde to work as usual...."if you need anything, just let me know."

Well, a few hours pass and the boss decides to check on the blonde. He looks out over his office and sees the blonde hysterically crying!! He rushes out to her, asking, "What's so bad now........are you gonna be ok??"

"No......" exclaims the blonde. "I just got a call from my sister. She told me that HER mom died too!!"

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"So I'm curious to understand those of you who are at peace with the notion of death."

Beautiful, and sad, post. I am in a similar postition now, with both grandmothers, who, though never replacing her, stood guard over me my whole life, since the loss of my mother when I was a baby. Both women mean the world to me, and I will be terribly, unbearably sad when they die. I know I am lucky to have had them, and I also know that time with them is dwindling away. My heart goes out to Cor.

My "country" grandma taught me about death from an early age. To this day, I have never met anyone with such rock solid faith in the heareafter. I wish I had the same faith.

When my daughter was very young, she told me she was afraid of dying. She was not afraid of the actual dying part, but was fearful that there was, in fact, nothing when someone died. Ouch. We started going to church right after that.

I feel pretty confident that there is something that happens after we die, but I am not sure what. The thing that comforts me, though, is this: compost. No matter what happens to my soul, I know that my body will become a part of the earth, and give back to it in some way. I know that I am connected to all things on this earth by virtue of living on it, and dying on it.

Oh, and go to sleep! While I know you will go back to work in August, it still burns my biscuits that you are done with school now. I have a week and a half of holy he** to get through, and six ten year-olds in a tent on the lawn. No sleep for me, I don't think. I will be too worried that one of them will wake up scared, but I was told in no uncertain terms to get on in the house.

[ June 05, 2004, 01:17 AM: Message edited by: Elizabeth ]

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As always, brilliant post. Death for sure scares me, and I know what you mean about leaving everything organised. I worry about that sometimes.

I get scared at the thought of dying without having achieved anything... Or dying unloved. But I think what scares me most is the thought of those I love dying. I've been very lucky in that respect, and I dread the day when that changes.

A life beyond this one is difficult to comprehend, for me, although I believe that there is such a thing. I guess all I can do is hope. And hug. <grin>

Thank you for being here. You're an awesome guy.


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A very powerful and interesting post, Icarus.

And distracting - I'm meant to be studying, dangnabbit!

I'm glad you haven't slipped off the hatrack wagon altogether. And now you can work on your landmark for the evil clone... [Smile]

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How can all that we struggle with, obsess over, and feel come to so little?
I puzzle over this, too. I think about the history of all the lives before us and how little of it is present today. Sure, a few personal histories of people got recorded. However, the vast majority of people's lives are forgotten after a couple of generations. Even those we remember, how very little of the emotions they had and the struggles they went through are recorded. Most of the time it's just the events they went to or witnessed, what they "accomplished," how they treated the people who remember them. Such a very tiny portion of ourselves is passed on. And really, how many histories can a person read in a lifetime while still leaving time for living their own life?

I try to think of it in terms of evolution. We're just a blip, a speck, on the evolutionary scale. Biology, nature, whatever you want to call it, is just interested in one thing - making a stronger, more adaptable species. A lot of the things we feel seem to be just extraneous crap, unnecessary for achieving that goal. Or is there some evolutionary advantage we gain through all that emotion?

Sometimes I wonder what I would do if I could remember all the past histories of my ancestors, if I had a genetic memory of them. I've seen anecdotal evidence of people talking a lot more about their memories as they get older. I find that I seem to speak longer and want to listen less as I get older, more reminiscing and less experiencing. If I had genetic memories would I spend most of my time reliving other lives in my memory, or would I constantly try to experience new things that my ancestors regretted not doing in their lives? I would love for the answer to be the latter, of course, but I'm not sure it would work out that way practically. I remember reading Dune and thinking, "But how do the Bene Gesserit ever accomplish anything? They could spend decades of their lives just remembering."

Anyway Icky, I'm glad to see you didn't automatically turn religious when the thought and fear of death enters your thoughts more frequently. Religion can be good for many things, and certainly assuaging the fear of death and comforting the grief-stricken are two of them. I just find that those who turn towards religion only when those things occur make their beliefs look very hollow. Like faith is just a tool to get you out of this tough jam called the "end of your existence."

I like the relationship you currently have with your father. I hope I can have a similar one with my father, someday when I find the time to not be so wrapped up in my own life that I can spend time with him.

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First of all, I love you title.

Second, don't worry about no one seeing this. I think this'll stay on the front page for a bit.

Third, I'm sorry for your loss. I, too, have never lost someone I was close to while I was still close to them. Distant relatives, friends I hadn't seen in years. Given my history of depression, I actually worry more about how badly I'll take it than the actual death part. Is dealing with death inherently selfish, or is it just me?

Fourth, I'd take you as a Christian for any reason you've got. Don't feel like you need some road to Damascus experience to find faith in God. Sometimes it just takes doing the things you should for a while. (Oh yeah, and being open to Him. It doesn't do you any good to go to church or pray if you flat out don't want to believe in Him.) If you'd like to feel God, all you have to do is find Him.

Finally, I loved the jokes. Nice ending.

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Powerful landmark.

I went through a period in High School were I was absolutely obsessed with death, to the point where I actually got physically ill from thinking about it so much.

Sometimes when I'm lying awake at night, I can almost, ALMOST wrap my brain around what non-existence is like. Usually scares the crap outta me.


This is gonna sound lame, but one thing that really, really helped me was doing stuff like watching sunrises and sunsets. Looking at the sky. I guess for me, the fact that even if everything collapses into entropy eventually, the fact is that there were ONCE people and love and connections and, y'know, puppy dogs.

Subjectively, everyone lives forever, right? If it turns out there *is* an afterlife, well, then that's usually for all eternity. Otherwise, if there's nothing, well, you'll never remember not being alive.


I'm sorry, this is just confused rambling for my own benefit, really. No one close to me has ever died, except for a classmate (who I didn't know very well) who hung himself when we were in fifth grade.

I dunno what to say, Ick. Powerful landmark, though.

*patented Zotto! hug*

(((Icarus and family)))

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God's sense of irony is so subtle that you probably WERE invincible back when you thought you were.

I think your dad's a great guy. At least fun and interesting to be around for the odd houseguest you happen to be entertaining (i.e., me).

I have thought about death a great deal. I have some credentials in the matter. I would love to have my father around to be with now. I envy you that you can be with yours. I would've liked having him around when I graduated high school, or college, or got married the first time, or see me getting it right the second time...and when we have kids...

I can tell you though that if there isn't an after life, then all these conversations we've had are pretty darn real. And the sense of his presence in my life is not just illusory. It's a real presence even if my mind is making it up.

It's no substitute for having the real person there, but it sure is a far cry from "gone and forgotten." Or even "gone, but not forgotten."

You may not enjoy the reduced contact, but that departed person is still a part of you and, through you, a part of your family and your children's lives.

And is that not a form of life-after-death?

As for what happens to the dead person after death...no-one truly knows. Those who claim to KNOW really don't. And it's nice for them to claim they do know, but they still don't. I have a theory though. My theory is that we'll all be surprised by it. My hope is that we learn everything there is to know. And then we get God's jokes and appreciate the irony.

But even if I'm wrong. If there is no afterlife, or if the afterlife really does consist of singing God's praises ad nauseum (and yet, strangely, not getting nauseous), there's one thing to remember now: That you're right -- the is the only life you know now. And you shouldn't waste it worrying about what happens after it's over.

Not that you do. I admire the way you LIVE your life. I think you are making more of this gift than most people do. And I think you are also a great husband, son, father and friend.

Thanks for the landmark.

By the way, you should write for a living. This was really really good.

[ June 05, 2004, 08:52 AM: Message edited by: Bob_Scopatz ]

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I don't see the post as sad. It's a struggle we all go through to understand that terminus which indicates an end to this world for all of us. That aspect of life is as important as birth.

Icky, thanks for being here, and keep exploring life. I'll keep looking forward to your posts.

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Icarus, were I a stickler for tradition, I'd read this landmark post a year and a half from now, start crying, and finally tell you what I think of you. But I've never been a stickler, and so I'll give you a nod and a smile, a tip of the hat for some good understanding of irony, and let you know how delighted I am that your writing is in my life.

Now back to that 1000th post which I never read -- sweetie, the memories and the telling of them are always so raw when it's something like that. When I read your name, though, I always think of this grinning fool with the laughing eyes in that picture of you from one of the productions. And, how I love you very, very much, my friend.

Good on you, Joe. [Smile]

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Bob, kids? [Cool]
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Hmm. Death. I’m around it a lot – I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve been with as they died. And, of course, part of my job is to be comfortable in those situations so that I can be a “non-anxious presence” for family members who might be freaking out. And being around it so much has really changed my attitude about it – calmed me down a lot. I was never particularly worried about what happens after death – that might be where the religion thing comes in [Wink] – but I was scared of the dying part. Now I’m not, so much. I’d still like to put it off as long as possible – there are a lot of things I’d still like to do in this life – but when it happens, I think I’ll be okay with it.

It’s good that you keep your affairs in order – to be considerate of those who might have to go through your stuff, especially since you have kids. And I don’t think it’s necessarily bad “to keep death before one's eyes daily.” (The Benedictines seem to do well with it, anyway.)

At the risk of sounding really morbid, one of the ways I knew I was in love with Bob was when I thought: “this is the guy I’d like holding my hand when I die, or whose hand I’d like to be holding when he dies.” And I really knew he was the one when I told him that and he took it as a good thing. [Big Grin]

One of my favorite parts of the UMC funeral service is a line from one of the early prayers – “help us to live as those who are prepared to die, and when our days here are accomplished enable us to die as those who go forth to live.” Icarus, you have the main ingredients for what will be, in my observation, a “good” death – you have a family that you love and who love you. And even though I do believe that death is not the end, I also believe that the phrase “eternal life” has less to do with duration than with significance. You are building a life with eternal significance in what you do with your family and in your teaching and writing. Whatever comes next can only build on that.

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CT -- July of 2006. Mark your calendar. [Wink]
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Icky, your landmarks are always great! The first one I read led me to found the Icarus fan club, and this one just confirms that.

You asked to hear how others relate to death. I spent years and years suicidal, on and off, and fighting the impulse, because I knew that it was not a good thing, despite how impossible it seemed sometimes to draw one more breath. A good friend of mine died by his own hand when we were in high school, and I still feel terrible about that and grieve over it, trying to relive it so that it comes out right, only of course it never does. It's been nearly twice as long now since then than he had been alive at the time, and yet it's still a horrible raw wound in my heart. I can't even imagine how it must be for his parents and twin sister. He could have told us. He could have had a little faith and hope. We could have noticed that he was hurting and reached out to him. But we didn't, and forever lost our chance. So I knew just how bad a suicide is, and how much pain it leaves behind, counterbalancing the dreadful pain it mercifully snuffs out.

But still I looked at death for all those years as a welcome release, and I longed for it. It is an old friend. Now that I love life and no longer wish to leave it before my time, I still have no fear of death. I will not now fear a friend who was there with me on many a midnight vigil.

When I was trying to take insulin for my diabetes, twice I had severe insulin reactions, and came back from very far away, after half a day or so of being gone. Both times, the second time particularly, it was so hard to come back. It seemed too much trouble to pick up again the burden of caring and worrying and wanting and striving when over there it was so peaceful. I realized then that it is not we who should mourn for them, for the ones who have gone before, but rather they for us.

Yet we grieve, and grieving, are comforted. So many things there are whose worth we seem unable to learn until they are gone. So much we learn while making that journey ourselves... that can't be learned any other way. Life is itself, complete and total, only in the context of death.

Now that I believe in an afterlife (in the same sense that I believe in Puerto Rico without having seen it) then death is even less to be feared, of course. I look forward to eternal progression, which seems to mean going on and on into higher and higher levels of feelings, of stronger love, deeper pain, more tender compassion, becoming more like Christ. So if anything it will be more like life than life, asking more of us, but giving so much more back. Each moment at such a level will be filled with more pain and love and joy than our whole lives are now. For we are growing up and getting stronger and kinder and more aware.

In that sense, death is passing a test, graduating from one school and moving up to one higher. My biggest fear always is that I will not measure up, that I won't live up to the very great potential which Heavenly Father has found and fostered in me.

[ June 05, 2004, 02:03 PM: Message edited by: ak ]

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I want to echo the condolences on your loss that have already been expressed by others above. I'd also like to say that I admire the relationship you have with your dad. By spending time with him as regularly as you do, you're avoiding the regrets that many feel when they lose a loved one.

I can't really say that I dwell on the subject of death. I grew up in a Christian home, and I still hold on to the beliefs that were taught to me by my parents and my church. I believe that there is life after death, and when the person has a relationship with God, the separation from this life is often also a separation from a world of pain and agony. Knowing that, however, doesn't make the pain any less for those of us who are left behind.

One of the closest loved ones that I have lost was my great-grandmother about 17 years ago. I was in college at Ohio University at the time. I remember it clearly because it quite a bizarre weekend. I had plans with some friends to go to Dayton on Saturday for a concert, but I got the call from my parents on Friday that she had died.

I was floored. For as long as I could remember, the family had gathered at my great-grandmother's house for Sunday dinner. She had 9 children, and on any given Sunday, at least 3 or 4 of them would be there to visit, as well as some of the grandchildren. On special occasions, the house would be packed with family. To this day, I miss those times with her and our extended family.

After my parents called that Friday, I called my friends to let them know what had happened, and they asked if it was ok for them to come over. I was feeling pretty upset, so I told them to come on over. We talked for quite a while, and just having them there and being able to talk to someone helped a lot. We discussed what to do about the concert, and I ultimately decided that it might be a a good way to keep my mind off of the situation if we went.

As luck would have it, we didn't end up going to the concert. Even though it was April, it had started snowing on Friday afternoon, and by Saturday we had over a foot of snow on the ground. With that, I figured if I was going to drive, it would be better to just make my way home so I could be there for the funeral.

The 2 things that really got me through that time were first and foremost the assurance that my great-grandmother was a very strong Christian. I knew that she was much better off than she was here continuing to deal with her health problems. The other was friends who were willing and able to spend time with me, pray with me, and basically just let me know how much they cared.

Icarus, you are in my prayers. I hope that you will honestly search for the truth about God and the afterlife. I know that if you do that, your questions will get answered.

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The relationship you now have with your father sounds lovely. I won't tell you to treasure it, because it's obvious that you already do.

Have you ever read the book "Tuesdays with Morrie"? I read it for the first time last year and was captivated. I'm like you - I want to live forever and see everything. I've always been afraid of death, especially after becoming a parent. This book showed me a different way to look at death and I highly recommend it.

This past winter, my husband and I were involved in a serious car accident. We hit a slick bridge on the interstate and careened into the guardrail, then bounced off and hit another one, coming to a stop in the middle of the interstate. When I opened my eyes, I saw the headlights of a semi coming at my side of the car. I closed them again and waited. The semi did hit us, but somehow the driver managed to swerve and only hit the front of the car instead of my side. The entire front of my car was ripped off; another 2 feet and both my husband and I would have died. We walked away without a scratch. The thing I learned from this was to keep being in love with my life. Sure, I forget sometimes, but I try very hard to remember to be grateful every day for what I have.

I don't think anyone ever truly is at peace with the thought of death. We're humans; it's built into us to fear the unknown. I cope by dealing with what I do know - that life is filled with beauty and I want to see as much of it as possible. The honesty in your post shares in that beauty, Icarus. Thank you.

space opera

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Oh, *#$%@. Why did I open this thread?

*shakes proverbial fist at Icarus*

Damn it. I don't remember the last time I cried. A long time ago. I'm not weeping bitterly, but there is definitely something unfamiliar and moist in my eyes, and I'm pretty sure it's not pus. There are at least two tears. I hope you're happy.

I'm going to talk about myself for a minute before I talk about you. I hope that's okay. If it isn't, skip the next bit.

I'm in a similar situation with respect to my own father, which is why I think your post resonated so deeply with me. I lost my last grandparent (the only one I knew at all, really) when I was still a teenager. Last night I was lying in bed when I was spontaneously confronted by a vision of my father on his deathbed, and in this vision (daydream?) I watched the life leave him. I'm not religious (I'm an agnostic drifting toward atheism), and the realization that after a time there will come a point where my father simply ISN'T was deeply, deeply disturbing. Obviously I knew it a long time ago, but it's something I haven't truly been able to wrap my consciousness around since finding out he has cancer.

How can I possibly deal with that? With the fact that his life, all of those things he has done, will only exist in the memories of others? That his own memories will be lost forever, and that I don't know how long I have to learn as much about them as I can? For Christ's sake, I'm 23 years old. 23. *sigh*

I think you have the right idea. What you're doing is good. I've been doing it too -- gardening with my dad every day the sun shines while I'm at home with my parents. Watching rugby over beer. I'm not home right now, but I'm going back soon and plan to keep right on doing all of these things. And hopefully golfing. So I agree that the best we can do in this crazy messed up world is make the most of the time we've got, even when we don't know how much time that is.

And, in a horribly selfish way, I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels these things.

All things considered, good post.


[ June 07, 2004, 02:40 AM: Message edited by: twinky ]

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In deference to previous posts which said wonderful and thoughtful things, I am taking myself away to think up something wonderful and thoughtful to say.

Or, I could just keep it simple and say thankyou for trusting us with some more of the inner you.

Peace -


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Not being afraid of death isn't like not being afraid of katsup. Fearing death isn't like fearing centipedes. I know that I will die, I know that I don't know if there's anything after that. In the odd little workings of my mind, that makes it not scary. I don't want to die, I don't crave death, but I know it will happen and that fearing it is sort of pointless since, while I can run and hide from centipedes, I can't not die.

But how I miss those who pass.

[Group Hug]

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celia, I know. [Group Hug]
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Hmmm. The good landmarks are hard to post to, because they make you think about things in a new way. This is one of them, especially the title.

I've never really feared death, but the thought of dying scares me. I think your post helps me understand why the previous sentence doesn't collapse into a black hole of contradiction from which no truth can escape. "How can all that we struggle with, obsess over, and feel come to so little?" is the aspect of death that I don't really fear. Partly this is my faith that we are eternal beings, but partly is a belief that none of us come to "so little." The effects you have on the world reverberate forever, their distant echoes harmonizing with those of others. Even if no one can pick out your particular contribution, they still hear it, add a little something to it, and pass it on.


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I've been trying for days to come up with a response to this incredible landmark. But I got nothin'. [Dont Know]

Thanks for letting us know you a little better, Ic. (((((Ic)))))

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Somehow I missed this. But I noticed that your post count was now above the 5000 mark, so there had to be a landmark around here somewhere.

All my grandparents have passed, but none really touched me very much. Both grandfathers died when I was very young, so I never knew them at all. Both of my grandmothers lived far away and I only saw them about one week out of the year if that. I was sad when they died, but they had never had a significant impact on me.

My only real experience with death was in the 7th grade when one of my best friends died in a car crash. His extended family went to Disney for the day. He and his 3 brothers and sisters were riding with their uncle. A semi hit them and killed everyone in the car instantly. Their parents were in the car just ahead. I can remember trying to "be a man" and not cry in class when I found out, but I did anyway. Even now that I'm a father, I can only imagine what it would be like to have all 4 of your children snatched away like that.

I worry about my own death, but I think I worry about others more. Because I haven't had anyone truly close to me die in a long time, I keep waiting for it to happen for some reason. Both my parents had interesting lives and have a lot of great stories to tell about how they grew up, but I can only remember some of them. I'm scared they'll die and those stories will be gone. I keep urging them to write them down or at least record them. In case something happens to them, I don't want their grandkids growing up not knowing about them.

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You post on a Friday night and you expect me to see this? [Wink]

Thank you for posting and letting us know more about you.

My son claims not to fear death. I always wonder how he can know, at such a young age?


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Icarus, Congrats on the 5000 mark. I'm glad you've stuck around Hatrack for so long.

I've never feared death, I don't look forward to it, I don't wish for it, normally, but I'm not afraid of it. I've never had anyone near me die that has caused me great emotional paoin. I miss them, I am sad, but I just accept the fact that there is something more than this life. Maybe there isn't, maybe I am just screwed up, but that's me.

Thanks for sharing your life with us again. I really enjoyed the first landmark, just as I did this one.

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Joe, the number of times you have written things that express precisely how I feel rather amazes me. I think about old age and death too much for someone as young as I am, I think. Maybe it's because I've been around it so much; until last year I had been to more funerals than weddings. I often think it would be comforting to believe in an afterlife--when Juliette's grandfather died he had no fear for himself because his belief was so strong--but all that I know is that when those in my life have passed, nothing remains of them here except what we carry in our memories. And that's not enough for me. I don't want to be a memory. Woody Allen once said, "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying." It's funny, but I feel that way. The idea that some day there will be no more me is horrifying. I can't even conceive of it. How can I? Not an eternity of blindness, but just nothingness, not even sadness or pain or even boredom because there will just be no more me. I don't understand it, I can't come to terms with it, but I can't get myself to believe that there is anything else.
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Anyway, I don't have much experience with death. It's a mixed blessing,
Icarus, this was like reading my own thoughts. I am glad you are coming to terms with our mortality and are concerned for your loved ones. I have to confess, I have had no one close to me pass away, except one grandfather, and I was able to deal with that because there was not even a funeral...I know a strange family indeed. But I differ because I run from death, I clam up and hide when someone tells me they had a death in the family, and when work requires it, it is very hard for me to talk to a customer who lost a loved one.

I hope that your Landmark might inspire me to do better, and I hope all is well with you too. Living with a Mom who taught for 35 years, I know some of the pain you go through teaching, and I admire you for doing it.

Selfishly, I could only think during your post, that as I sit here, 33 years old, my life is most likely half over, and I haven't done a tenth of the things I want to do. And that, my friend, is inspiration enough to carry on and fight the good fight.

One thing for sure, you are one of the anchormen of Hatrack, and quite honestly, one of the reasons I come back. Ask any Juatraquero, though, and they will tell someone not acquainted with Hatrack that there are many many reasons to keep coming back for more.


[ June 14, 2004, 08:23 PM: Message edited by: Alucard... ]

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I was thinking the other day how my life is so wrapped up in my family: my husband, my children, and how lucky I am to have them. But then I also thought how devistating it would be to lose them. How could I continue living? They are my life.

I think that you savoring every moment you have with your father is just the right thing to do, but in some ways it will make you miss him more when he is gone. But you won't have any regrets. I would much rather be left with bushels full of happy memories than a handful of regrets.

I don't think much about death. I have not had anyone very close to me die. I remember the deaths of my great-grandmother and my grandfather, but I was not extremely close to either and I was fairly young. Someday I will probably have to come to terms with the death of my parents and others very close to me. I'm sure such a death will cause me to think about it much more.

I believe in an afterlife, but I have no "physical evidence" of it. I go on faith for this and I am intensely aware of that--including the questions and doubts that sneak in.

I remember being at the funeral of Porter's grandmother and the great peace and assurance I felt that her spirit yet lived on. That meant a lot to me. I hope I will feel the same when death hits much, much closer to home.

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I've put off replying to this as long as I can -- you know what I think of you (this time, not in the "duhty duhty guhl" sense), and you know my respect for you, but you don't know how eerily I see you as a foil, or a prophet, or some bizarre representation of the man I hope to someday be. And if I ever accomplish half as much, I'll consider myself blessed. If I suffer half as much, I'll consider myself strong beyond all reckoning. And yet, even with all you have and all you've gone through, you're plagued by the same doubts that haunt every sentient mind, and you don't seem to have found an answer despite fulfilling the requirements of happiness prescribed by most the world.

You're rather depressing, really. If you're sure you'll sink into the annals of history unnoticed and unrecorded and unremembered, what hope do I have? What hope do any of us have? Though I doubt you're willing to recognize its full truth, you've got confidents and s-m-r-t-s and, dare I say it, sheer love that outshadows the cheap imitations I, or most people, put up in an effort to learn the wisdom you wield.

And you're going to die. Possibly young -- I sympathize, I know my extremely large brother is doomed to an early death, as, probably, am I. There are no old giants, and all that crap. Unlike me, though, you find regret in death -- unhappiness in a life not fully realized rather than relief for the absence of pain. Not even considering how much more you've had to endure than most people ever face, this hope for fulfillment, whatever the cost, rather than maintaining at minimal risk as most of us live, sets you apart and above us petty mortals.

We all fear death, but most of us fear life even more -- its risks are too costly and its challenges too overwhelming to suffer. You'll die sooner than you'd like, but you have plenty of meantime to create an immortality with that ridiculous talent of yours for writing, carving out a monument to your grave with a pen and paper. Or "settle" for a delayed death by becoming the teacher and father you are. You'll die faster and with less impact than you'd like -- I adored my kindergarten teacher, but the likes of Joseph Conrad, even that racist bastard, hold far more guidance over my life's direction -- but you're doomed to that death no matter what impact you leave on the world. You may as well make your life count where it truly matters.

Er. I'm not quite sure what I'm writing, given that I have no answer for the dilemma you and I and most face -- but if you desire immortality, there are other ways to achieve it. If you want your life to be read under the covers with a flashight by a nine year old boy, or whispered dreamily between lovers, or read silently by a dying old man anxious to know as much of life as he can before death clenches its grip on his heart -- write, and let the world know the Jose I know, let them love the man I, and we all, have been forced to love. You have the experience and wisdom I've yet been denied (though I still have a cute ass and twenty more years of getting laid that you don't have, nyah nyah nyah), but few of us will be privileged with the virtues you've steadily earned throughout the first half of your life. No matter how you share yourself with us -- through your acting (and if you become a huge movie star, I want invitations to all the parties and premieres and at least an attempt to give me a night with Christina and J. Lo in the same bed), through your family, through your writing, through your friendship -- you've already earned more life than your mortality permits. Your life will carry on after your death, for as long as I do, for as long as your family and friends do -- you've already got that much in the bag. Aim for the next couple hundred years, if you're anxious for a longer temporary immortality, but we're all doomed to join the uncounted legions of the unremembered sometime. Find happiness before you set off on the hunt for immortality, and your life will not be the waste so many others seem to be. Your father seems to understand this principle -- you deserve to know it, too.

I realize I've been preachy and talking to the person beyond the post I'm replying too, and probably projecting my own insecurities and anxieties on you -- but for what it's worth, I don't think you need to fear death. You've already conquered it -- what's left to worry about?

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Now, when the soul has gone to meet its doom,
And here the dust lies, like an empty pod,--
Now, my dear friends, we'll speak a word or two
About this dead man's pilgrimage on earth.
He was not wealthy, neither was he wise,
His voice was weak, his bearing was unmanly,
He spoke his mind abashed and faltering,
He scarce was master at his own fireside;
He sidled into church, as though appealing
For leave, like other men, to take his place.
It was from Gudbrandsdale, you know, he came.
When here he settled he was but a lad;--
And you remember how, to the very last,
He kept his right hand hidden in his pocket.
That right hand in the pocket was the feature
That chiefly stamped his image on the mind,--
And therewithal his writhing, his abashed
Shrinking from notice wheresoe'er he went.
But, though he still pursued a path aloof,
And ever seemed a stranger in our midst,
You all know what he strove so hard to hide,--
The hand he muffled had four fingers only.--
I well remember, many years ago,
One morning; there were sessions held at Lundë.
'Twas war-time, and the talk in every mouth
Turned on the country's sufferings and its fate.
I stood there watching. At the table sat
The Captain, 'twixt the Bailiff and the sergeants;
Lad after lad was measured up and down,
Passed, and enrolled, and taken for a soldier.
The room was full, and from the green outside,
Where thronged the young folks, loud the laughter rang.
A name was called, and forth another stepped,
One pale as snow upon the glacier's edge.
They bade the youth advance; he reached the table;
We saw his right hand swaddled in a clout;--
He gasped, he swallowed, battling after words,--
But, though the Captain urged him, found no voice.
Ah yes, at last! Then with his cheek aflame,
His tongue now failing him, now stammering fast
He mumbled something of a scythe that slipped
By chance, and shore his finger to the skin.
Straightway a silence fell upon the room.
Men bandied meaning glances; they made mouths;
They stoned the boy with looks of silent scorn.
He felt the hail-storm, but he saw it not.
Then up the Captain stood, the grey old man;
He spat, and pointed forth, and thundered "Go!"
And the lad went. On both sides men fell back,
Till through their midst he had to run the gauntlet.
He reached the door; from there he took to flight;--
Up, up he went,--through wood and over hillside,
Up through the stone-screes, rough, precipitous.
He had his home up there among the mountains.--
It was some six months later he came here,
With mother, and betrothed, and little child.
He leased some ground upon the high hill-side,
There where the waste lands trend away towards Lomb.
He married the first moment that he could;
He built a house; he broke the stubborn soil;
He throve, as many a cultivated patch
Bore witness, bravely clad in waving gold.
At church he kept his right hand in his pocket,--
But sure I am at home his fingers nine
Toiled every whit as hard as others' ten.--
One spring the torrent washed it all away.
Their lives were spared. Ruined and stripped of all,
He set to work to make another clearing;
And, ere the autumn, smoke again arose
From a new, better-sheltered, mountain farmhouse.
Sheltered? From torrent--not from avalanche;
Two years, and all beneath the snow lay buried.
But still the avalanche could not daunt his spirit.
He dug, and raked, and carted--cleared the ground--
And the next winter, ere the snow-blasts came,
A third time was his little homestead reared.
Three sons he had, three bright and stirring boys;
They must to school, and school was far away;--
And they must clamber, where the hill-track failed,
By narrow ledges past the headlong scree.
What did he do? The eldest had to manage
As best he might, and, where the path was worst,
His father bound a rope round him to stay him;--
The others on his back and arms he bore.
Thus he toiled, year by year, till they were men.
Now might he well have looked for some return.
In the New World, three prosperous gentlemen
Their school-going and their father have forgotten.
He was short-sighted. Out beyond the circle
Of those most near to him he nothing saw.
To him seemed meaningless as cymbals' tinkling
Those words that to the heart should ring like steel.
His race, his fatherland, all things high and shining,
Stood ever, to his vision, veiled in mist.
But he was humble, humble, was this man;
And since that sessions-day his doom oppressed him,
As surely as his cheeks were flushed with shame,
And his four fingers hidden in his pocket--
Offender 'gainst his country's laws? Ay, true!
But there is one thing that the law outshineth
Sure as the snow-white tent of Glittertind
Has clouds, like higher rows of peaks, above it.
No patriot was he. Both for church and state
A fruitless tree. But there, on the upland ridge,
In the small circle where he saw his calling,
There he was great, because he was himself.
His inborn note rang true unto the end.
His days were as a lute with muted strings.
And therefore, peace be with thee, silent warrior,
That fought the peasant's little fight, and fell!
It is not ours to search the heart and reins;--
That is no task for dust, but for its ruler;--
Yet dare I freely, firmly, speak my hope:
He scarce stands crippled now before his God!

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I am sorry I missed this when I was away.

Next year my parents are taking me to Disney World, and I expect to get together with you and Cor and the rest of the clump for a true Epcot tour, so don't get to morbid and depressed, OK.

I like the concept of God as a story teller. The fun part is, while we are all extra's in others peoples stories, we are almost always the stars of our own.

Weaving these stories together into the mega-story called reality is awe-inspiring.

However, As the star of my own story I am going to hold out for more money next time.

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