“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” ― Mark Twain

Everything you love today will be one day thrown off, cast in a heap, stolen or forgotten. You may write your mementos into a will, put your signature upon books you’ve written, and, in the case of your very body, have portraits done to capture who you once appeared to be.

An old wise owl as writing partner sits upon my desk.
As a man came from his mother’s womb, so he will depart again, naked as he arrived. He takes nothing for his labor to carry in his hands. This too is a grievous evil: Exactly as a man is born, so he will depart. What does he gain as he toils for the wind? Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness, with much sorrow, sickness, and anger.

Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of life that God has given him—for this is his lot. Ecclesiastes 

Antique fairs are like walking through graveyards but with less respect and order. Attendees remind me of grave robbers on battlefields (in a small way) though I very much enjoy being one of them. The dead are not quite so fresh at a county fairground, and we have no idea in most cases what the original owners died of. Let’s hope all in their sleep and at ripe old ages.

Last year the fair was cancelled, along with most everything that makes life worth living so this year the line to get in to see dead people’s stuff was easily a football field long. Everyone was commenting about it as they stood surveying who wore the mask correctly or not-at-all, obviously that person over there was not up-to-date on the latest studies, etc — so many studies! At least as we stood (at less than six feet apart) we were getting a good dose of Vitamin D.

Anyway, despite knowing I’ll die one day, I still love collecting old stuff. I love imagining the original owners and wonder am I imagining or tapping into their memories — it’s hard to know for sure, but I’m leaning toward objects granting the seeker a knowledge, a hint of something more. It’s the same way with writing. The muses, the spirits are there inviting you to see things, to take a chance. Where might these glimpses and promptings lead?

“One must really be brave to choose love or writing as one’s guides, because they may lead one to the space in which the meaning of our life is hidden — and who can say that this space may not be the land of death.”

Demetrios Capetenakis

I think of the Catholic Sisters of Charity who ran toward the battlefields and hospitals and died (of disease and exhaustion) for the love of many soldiers during the Civil War who would otherwise have died without names. Or the soldiers themselves who found purpose in loving their country, or comrades or family back home. Nowadays we see all death as the worst possible outcome. I think this is because we have given up on the idea of eternity.

A wonderful etching of the best and worst of life.

For the life of me I can’t keep death from my novels. I don’t even want to, I guess. I’ve made peace with what the muses say must be done. I’ll be happy if one day, for the love of my mission here, I am able to completely let my ego die and get down to just loving the people and things before me. The more I write, the more I love the characters, come what may. The fear of them leading to bad reviews or just plain bad endings diminishes the more I accept death as part of creation.

Do you know what this badge is? It’s a Grand Army of the Republic grave marker for a Civil War veteran. Somewhere a grave goes without its marker. I can’t imagine why, but I couldn’t very well leave it at the fair.

Again I think of the soldiers who died and were buried on plantations or in mass graves or even lovingly by their comrades. The men would often do their best to leave markers made of whatever they had available, most of it not holding up in the weather.

It was the evening before Cold Harbor when an officer spied all of his men crouched over sewing their names written on little sheets of paper to the backs of their jackets so sure they were of the hopelessness of their situation.

My idea is to plant a small garden for this relic of a brave soul’s life, to me unknown, but not really.

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5 thoughts on ““The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” ― Mark Twain

  1. Awesome. Love that you are honoring the forgotten soldier. I’m 83 and death seems like a doorway and I’m very curious about what’s on the other side. Hoping it includes my husband of 60 years. But I do fear suffering. So many friends have outlived their bodies and suffered both pain and the burden of being a burden. Really blessed by this post. Well done. Thank you.

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    1. Hi Eileen,

      I’m curious about the other side too — and not so happy about suffering either especially when it drags on for a long time. I know we’re supposed to learn from it but I have to be careful when I stay up late thinking about all the different ways we may leave this world. In the meantime I guess we just have to find ways to love each other and memories of those who’ve moved on before us.
      God bless!

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