What a hard dying, what an easy death

Death and life of a friend

2 minute read
Let him die on a Sunday, she decides. And so she calls me, and I come. There could be no otherwise.

He lies under the fig tree in her bedroom, too weak to follow her with his eyes. Nothing enters him, nothing leaves; he is a perfect circle of death. Slowly, too slowly, he is succumbing to his body's own poisons. It's killing her.

On this day she has chosen, before his suffering becomes her habit, she readies his beloved sheepskin rug, plays some classical music on the radio, waits for the doctor, and somehow mutes her grief. Soon. There is nothing else to do.

We wrap him in old towels. She holds his head. He doesn't know her. The music flows over us, a benediction. The doctor finds her door, then finds a vein. Before the needle can empty, he is dead, not even a start or a shudder.

Yet, incredibly, how warm he feels; still, beneath his fur, the imagined echo of a dull but certain pulse, blood and bone and flesh, a declension— this was alive, you were, we shall be, promise of an afterlife.

Around us, snapshots and watercolors trap him in full vitality. We almost believe them. She curls him up, as if this is only a long nap. Bravely, she wraps him up in the red sweater she once knit against winter. Placing the ragged Frisbee at his feet, she cradles him with her soft flannel nightgown.

After the tactless man in loud green pants from the pet cemetery carries him away in a plain cardboard box, we drive to the country for breakfast, relieved: What a hard dying, what an easy death.

She tells me about the man who took his aged mother to breakfast every Sunday morning at the pancake house, out of duty not love, leaving his own family behind. But when she died, he found his Sunday mornings empty; now his children take him to breakfast every Sunday morning at the same pancake house. What an easy dying, what a hard death.

The day is clear and crisp and bright, just a hint of chill. We sit at the side of a lake, two women, watching little children feeding ducks.

We're no longer young. We've passed through storms of men and lived. We've known nothing really personal of motherhood. Nevertheless, we're thankful for the pleasures of children, the joy of the sun.♦

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