Death is Free, 2012
The most interesting thoughts come to me sometimes during what I believe is the interval between sleep and wakefulness. I have no idea whether my concept of the timing of these ideas is any way accurate. This is just how it seems to me.
Something I’ll wake in in the middle of the night—that’s what sets these thoughts apart, that they wake me—or have a particularly vivid dream just before waking that leaves a word or a name or any idea or just a turn of words hanging so prominently in my mind that I repeat the word or name or idea several times because even in my semi-conscious state I sense that it’s something worth saving.
The challenge is that sometimes I’m not quite awake enough to actually write the thought down on the notepad beside the bed. But sometimes I do and still don’t know what I was thinking about. One morning I found written on the notepad the name “Herkimer Muldoon.” It sounds like a name out of a William Kennedy novel. I still haven’t figured out why I thought that was worth saving.
All of this is to explain why seven days ago I awoke and quickly scribbled down the verse below. I don’t recall having had a bad dream or any other sad thoughts. The importance just seemed obvious at the time and although they were neither the answer to a question I’d been thinking about nor the solution to a problem or just grist for some other thought, I grabbed the notepad upon waking and jotted them down just as you see them.
It is only a week later that I realize that I’d written these thoughts down at the beginning of the day on which my mother would die. I don’t attach any spiritual meaning or metaphysical foresight to them. I had no reason to believe she’d die that day. They don’t comfort me or explain anything. But here they are. Maybe they’ll make sense later.
Death comes to everyone eventually.
Some humanely, some cruelly,
Some on time and some before their time.
It leaves families asking
Why, or why now?
It strikes without notice, without justice.
It comes calmly, sometimes violently.
You can think you're immune,
But you're not.
You can think you wouldn’t deserve it
But you would.
It is silent. It is noisy.
It is fair and unfair.
It happens whether you like it or not,
Whether you want it or not,
Whether you're ready for it or not.
You can think you've fooled it, but
Death comes to everyone, eventually.
In the meantime you'd better get on with life.