Death descended swiftly, or so we were told. Being equipped with this knowledge didn’t make me feel any better. Who really knows just how quickly it can descend, unless you’re the one who’s doing the dying. I was on an airplane 48 hours later. It was October 8, 2009, Portland to Palm Springs. I know this to be true. The day he died was a Tuesday and the world as I knew it tumbled off its axis. There was no making sense of the loss that touched so deeply, in places I hadn’t known existed. The searing pain of losing someone you love is brutal and unrelenting.
He was a prolific artist and writer, not just my step-father. My lifelong mentor and best friend was taken away much too soon. When I walked into his home a few days after his death, his presence lingered. The air hung thick with the smell of musty eclectic furniture commingled with incense and stale cigarette.
I stood in his living room on the white shag carpet and imagined his airways slowly constricting. I could almost hear the sound of him as he began gasping for breath, the death rattle gripping his chest as he slowly lost consciousness and slipped into eternity. I pictured the paramedics performing their resuscitation efforts but it was too late. The artist man with the black fisherman’s cap and John Lennon specs was gone.
Death is not discriminatory. I despise the lack of control we have over its timing. It comes knocking when it damn well pleases and really pisses me off. Lately, I’ve given much thought to the value of time and how to make the best of it. I’ve concluded that it’s more about the living of it and not how it plays out in the end. In the act of dying, impermanence makes its home as a life long tenant, taking residence inside us all. Like a beautiful painting that cannot be unpainted, we fold into the perpetual landscape and become one with the well worn palette.
20 May 2017