I knew a long time ago, sooner than most people because my husband died so young, that I was not immortal. Young people today still think they are. The recognition of one's mortality frees one somehow; nothing is as frightening as it might have been. "What's the worst could happen?" You hear people say that. Well, there are lots of things worse than death. We know that now, don't we? I can say the D-word quite casually, and I never say "passed" about someone who has died. I say died. I do like the metaphors, though, from "he has shuffled off this mortal coil" to "he has gone to that Big Boardroom in the sky."
Kenny Rogers said it in his song about The Gambler: you have to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em and "the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep." With so many violent deaths possible now, that's a fond hope not granted to many. But here's a funny thing: in the last few months I have begun to feel immortal. Against all odds, I'm feeling very full of life. It was the cruise, I guess. I've been wondering how I would change and I can see/feel that I have, but I didn't expect this.
While I was away I had news of a friend's illness, from one of her chlldren. (The ship had Wifi, of course.) This woman and I had been friends for 42 years, though we never lived in the same city, were indeed separated by many miles and very different life situations. I picked her up or she picked me up, not sure which, on fan mail. I had written the first piece about my newly fledged widowhood, published in MacLean's magazine, and she had read it and written me and asked if we could meet for lunch the next time she was in Toronto. That's how it began, and continued until as late as last February when she was in Toronto and came for lunch and wished me well on my world cruise, and wasn't it lucky that it had been shortened or we might never have seen each other again. So, just weeks later, her daughter informed me that her mother was ill. I was on the mailing list and received bulletins of fast failing health, even received a photograph revealing that shocking, recognizable mask of death on her face. And then the news came that she had died, all within about four weeks. Sic transit gloria mundi.
You see, I know, I know. Sooner or later, it's going to happen. I know that. "One out of one dies of something," as my late husband used to say. But still, I feel immortal.
I'm here, aren't I?