Monday, August 18, 2008

Death Observed
Before the sperm meets the egg; are we?
After the last breath is taken; are we?

Aunt Josie died circa 1955. I would have been around ten. She'd been dying for quite awhile. She lived across the street from our house with her son, Buck and his wife Irene. I don't know why she stopped living with the Major, her husband who lived only a few blocks away, up in the shipyard. It never occurred to me to ask why, or if I did, some innocuous answer quelled any further questions on my part. As long as I knew her, she lived across the street at Buck's. Seems to me she was always sickly. Mainly a debilitating arthritis; the knobby knuckle type. Rheumatoid I think it's called today. In good weather she spent most days on the side porch with her dog Tippy, a toy Fox Terrier, entertaining friends and neighbors alike with tales of the "good-'ol-days. During the winter months she sat on the couch in the parlor listening to the radio and later watching the little 12 inch black and white Motorola TV. I also remember she and her sisters played cards a couple nights a week. Keno I think, for nickles and dimes.

When she got nearer to her end time, everyone; relatives, neighbors and friends were well aware. In those days we had the neighborhood grapevine: the party-line telephone.
A person's dying in those days was a community event. Everyone came 'round to Buck and Irene's to pay their respects, say their goodbyes and ask and give forgivenesses for past indiscretions, and so on and like that there.

After she died, the couch, that she sat on in the parlor, was relocated and the casket in which she was laid out took it's place. Folks, including us youngsters, came to view the body of Aunt Josie. I think I must have viewed it a hundred times. Just wanted to see what dead was. It was like a family reunion with all the relatives and there was food enough to feed an army. While the old folks commiserated we kids played tag and hide-an-go-seek out side. Some of us took time out to pet and comfort Tippy. Funerals in those days were a great opportunity to meet cousins you'd only heard about here-to-fore. Let me tell you, some of the older girl cousins were real knockouts!

Dying was a part of daily life, like going to work, gardening, and eating meals; everybody did it and your turn would come 'round one day too. It was accepted just like the sun rising every morning was accepted. Death wasn't hidden away in those days, and kept separate from the living.
'Course some deaths were sadder than others. 'Specially if the deceased was young. I remember Aunt Josie's grandson Timmy dying in a construction accident. his wife and 5 kids were devastated.

Cinnamon is dying. He's our Siamese cat. He's been steadily declining for weeks and I don't think he's got too many days left. He knows his days are numbered and he's OK with that and so are we. He seems comfortable, and sleeps most of the time. He's eighteen. (Jacob went online to find out how to calculate cat years to the human equivilant, and says Cinn is in his late eighties.)

When we're here, we are!
When we're not, we aren't.

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Blogger danni said...

there was a lot more quality to the death experience when folk died at home surrounded by their familiars, and then were waked there while life went on around them - something about an institutional death that leaves me cold - way too antiseptic and sterile - leaves me colder than the dead!!!

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

You have my sympathies for Cinnamon and I understand that dying is a part of life but it is never easy for those left behind. Very thoughtful post, thanks.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Catch said...

You know Rel, I just said to one of my gfs a couple weeks ago, we should have funerals like they used home. With the rediculous cost of saying goodbye to a loved one whats better than having them in their own home???? I dont believe in all the flowers and the money making schemes the funeral homes use. Id rather be right here in my livingroom propped up in front of the tv, preferably with my dog in my lap. They can stuff her to. She might as well go with me, shes my dog! lol

great post Rel.....

2:29 PM  
Blogger Churlita said...

Poor kitty. I hope everything goes well at the end.

Great post. I love the beginning story.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Epiphany said...

I remember when my great- grandmother died in Texas. They set the casket out in the living room for the viewing. I was only around 9 or 10 myself. I found it incredibly unsettling that I'd be sleeping in that same house that night. That was my first real experience of death as well.

I'm so sorry about Cinnamon. As prepared as everyone is, its still tough when the time comes. Its never that death in and of itself is bad, its the pain of missing the one that's gone that creates the cavern of loss in our heart. Best to you, rel.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Kay said...

I love the writing in this post - a lovely piece. And good luck to Cinnamon! He's lived a long life and I'm sure has loved every minute with you guys.

6:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an important reflection, Rel. We need to be reminded these days. Reminded of the cycle and the way of things.

I hope that Cinnamon is restful and comfortable.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Rowan said...

This is a really excellent post Rel, I'm sorry that Cinnamon is close to the end of his life. It has been a long and happy life though and it sounds as though he is ready to move on now. My mum was like that too and that made her passing a little easier for me at the time.

2:04 AM  
Blogger Giggles said...

So sorry about your cat, it's hard to lose a family member no matter how you look at it! You'll know when it's time, I always have. Having had my animals from birth to death, each death has been devastating.

I was in the room as my mom passed it was a very spiritual experience I'd not have wanted to miss! Emotionally I could not sit vigil during my fathers death, it was much more difficult to accept with my baby only six weeks old. Each death whether animal, or relative garners an unexpected reaction. Such a pivotal part of life that has become almost taboo!

Thanks for reminding us that it does need to be discussed!

Hugs Sherrie

3:03 AM  
Blogger Wanderlust Scarlett said...

I'm sorry to hear about Cinnamon. I hope it goes as well as it can.

And, you made me think of my grandmother; she had that arthritis... it's pretty bad stuff.


Scarlett & Viaggiatore

6:19 PM  
Blogger paisley said...

leave it to a man to produce such a non emotional fact based account.. i loved this..

i feel that this says what i mean about the acceptance.. the willingness in a way more people can relate to as it is not a matter of the heart here so much as a matter of fact,,, thank you for this

9:35 AM  
Blogger J at said...

What a lovely post. I'm sorry about your cat, though yes, sounds like its time has come.

6:32 PM  

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