Friday, April 23, 2010

Crossing to Safety

For years I've kept a common book where I copy down passages that I've read and want to remember. The week I went to Florida to see my dad in the hospital I started a new book, Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner. A week and a half later I was back in Florida for my father's funeral. On the flight home I read this paragraph as I was finishing the book. In some twisted way it gave me peace.

"There's no decent literature on how to die. There ought to be, but there isn't. Only a lot of religious gobbledygook about being gathered to God, and a lot of biological talk about returning your elements to the earth. The biological talk is all right, I believe it, but it doesn't say anything about what religion is talking about, the essential you, the conscious part of you, and it doesn't teach you anything about how to make the transition from being to not-being. They say there's a moment, when death is certain and close, when we lose our fear of it. I've read that every death, at the end, is peaceful. Even an antelope that's been caught by a lion or a cheetah seems not to struggle at the end. I guess there's a big shot of some sedative chemical, the way there's a big shot of adrenaline to help it leap away when it's scared. Well, a shot will do for quick deaths. The problem is to get that same resignation to last through the weeks or months of a slow one, when everything is just as certain but can't be taken care of with some natural hypo."

Somehow, reading words that describe my fears, thoughts, and emotions, makes me feel connected rather than alone.

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