“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” – Woody Allen
Once kitty’s in the garden, winter is officially done. Finally! The snow is melted, the rain has stopped, the sun in shining and my blue sky has returned:
After three long weeks, I hopped on Ole Bessie and went for a ride along my go-to place, trying desperately to pick up where I left off with my training.
Giant puddles littered the parking lots, making for some good splashing. Mud splatters on my back always prove I’ve had a fun ride. A bright red “flower” sun, higher in the sky for the season, casts cool shadows. Colorful boats wait their turn to sail. Multiple signs telling us what we can’t do, but not letting us know what we can. A tree has grown into and intertwined with a fence…
I love seeing nature take over man-made things. It’s proof that we will not prevail, G-d’s reminder He and his creations are so much more powerful than us. Despite human intrusion, at some point a tiny seed planted itself under this fence. A sapling grew into a tree that adapted to its environment, regardless of the twisted pain necessary in overcoming the obstacles in its path.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the people in my family “don’t do sick.” This is something I learned from my father (and it’s not necessarily a bad thing).
I remember my father having a hernia operation before his father died. Despite the obvious discomfort, he went to his father’s funeral and then came home and mowed the lawn. Two weeks after giving birth to my daughter, I too was mowing the lawn. Two days after having a hysterectomy, I came home and vacuumed my house. This mentality also finds itself in every moment of my life. Looking back, most of my life has been fairly uneventful and I’ve coasted contently over tiny ripples in this life’s ocean. But, damn, when those big moments happen, it’s like getting hit with a tsunami every time. Each time, I find myself twisting and turning in the wave, unable to catch a breath, waiting for the water to calm. Each time I remind myself, “Tie yourself to a tree dummy!” like they did in that movie that scared the s**t out of you when you were little…the one that you saw before being caught in a riptide at age six…the one that kept you from going into the ocean until your 30s, thanks to your daughter’s love of water.
Maybe it’s just our way of stalling death. We’re fully aware of its presence, looming over every breath, watching and waiting to be given the go-ahead. And while death hovers, we sit and wonder when it’s going to happen, where we’ll be, what we’ll be doing and how we’ll die. I can’t say that I’m “okay” with it, but I know it’s going to happen…just not for a few more decades please…
This is also how I’ve dealt with the death of others in my life. Yes, there is a process necessary after losing a loved one, but once that process is followed, it’s time to move on. You are still alive. You must continue to live. Cycling has been a more recent coping mechanism – no better way to live than feel the strength of your own heart beat and your lungs breathing heavily while the wind passes through your body…besides, I’ve had a landscaper since 2004, so now I don’t get to mow the lawn anymore…
In our class this morning, the rabbi told us of a person who complained about something “tragic” having occurred on Purim years back and that they couldn’t possibly enjoy the pomp and circumstance of the holiday knowing what happened on that day. Saturday will be the fourth anniversary of my father’s death. He died on the seventh day of Passover. It was also April Fool’s Day, the day after Easter Sunday and the birthday of our best friend. Yes, I will be sad, but I will not allow Passover to be a somber time because of his death. We will call our friend and wish him a happy birthday – because he is alive and we are grateful for having him in our lives. Not only is it easier to remember this anniversary, I chuckle at the thought that my father would die on April Fool’s Day…it’s so like him…
Toward the end of my ride later in the day, I noticed a woman running across the street several yards in front of me. She was petite and thin, wearing a frilly pink dress and a taupe-colored winter jacket with faux fur trim. I imagined every reason why this pretty little dressed up woman would run out of nowhere – she was being chased by some crazy guy…or her boyfriend just broke up with her and she needed to get away…or she really really needed to pee and was running to the port-o-potty…As I got closer to her, I noticed she was also wearing flip flops. Impressed and amazed that someone could so easily run in flip flops, I again thought about how dire her situation must be that she needed to run away wearing only flip flops. As I passed her, I glanced over to look at her face – is she crying? is she grimacing? is she horrified? None of the above…her face was lit with passion, a giant grin intermittently broken by laughter. What a beautiful sight! This woman was simply happy. Of course I then tried to imagine why she was so happy…and was envious of her joy…
“It’s my life
It’s now or never
I ain’t gonna live forever
I just want to live while I’m alive”
It’s My Life – Bon Jovi
“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump