Essay Non-Fiction posted November 6, 2015


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Life Never Ends

by Annmuma

Death Be Not Proud Contest Winner 

I cannot remember a time in my life when I feared death.

Oh, there were times where I wished to live to certain dates, until my youngest child reached adulthood; until my oldest grandchild had passed a similar milestone; but those were wishes for life, not fear of death. Death visited my family often and early in my life. With each loss, I became more aware of the deceased's continued existence and, at times, almost tangible presence.

I had a favorite uncle who, though suffering from enough human frailties and weaknesses to fill a book, took the time on two occasions to make me feel special. I was six years old when he drove from Houston, Texas, to Tioga, Louisiana, to bring me a fresh pineapple. I had never seen one before; I stared in awe as he peeled it, cut it into chunks and spun a tale so intricate and beautiful of how and where that pineapple came to be that I could see the men harvesting and smell the island breezes. The mental picture of that afternoon is as clear today, sixty-six years later, as it was on the night I crawled into bed dreaming of luaus and hula dancers. I know now that his visit was not built around me, but for a few hours, I basked in a light created just for me.

When I was eight, my family drove to Houston to visit him. I starred in very little of the weekend's events, but one marvelous memory is mine only. He took me to a toy store and said, "Pick anything you like and I'll buy it for you." As I walked up and down every aisle, I was drawn to a crawling doll. It was spellbinding and grabbed my attention, but I believed the price tag placed it out of my reach. I could not ask for something so outrageously expensive; $5.98 was a great deal of money for a toy in 1958! Although I looked at the magical doll more than once, I ultimately chose a book of short stories, a big thick book with alluring pictures and a more modest cost of only $2.98.

Uncle James paid for my treasure, we loaded into his pickup truck and he began driving to his home. I loved my book, started reading it immediately, but thoughts of the crawling doll nagged below the surface. A few minutes down the road, he pulled to the side.

"What's wrong, Uncle James?" I asked.

He reached under the seat and pulled out a bag, a toy store bag! My heart leapt when I saw it. Could it be?

"What's that?"

He just smiled, handed it to me and said to open it as he pulled back onto the highway. The richest, most idolized child in the world's wealth and love were dwarfed by what I experienced as I carefully unwrapped my crawling doll.

Uncle James committed suicide two years later. It was late at night when he parked on the edge of a road not that far from where he gave me an extra dose of self-worth. He hooked the exhaust pipe to a hose and ran it back into the cab of his pickup. Then he took out a paper and a pencil and wrote what he felt as he passed from this world to the next. His note said he was leaving this side because he needed to know what was on the other one.

Did he die that day? His earthly body did, but his essence is immortal in how he helped shape my character and in the joy I will experience forever in reliving a few hours with my Uncle James.

The next time death dropped by to throw me a curve and open a door to learning, I was almost thirteen, less than three weeks away. My mom had been sick for several years, but not an every-day kind of sick, more of a 'hanging-in-the-air' kind of sick. We had many more good days than bad days. She had hypertension and was told at age 35 of a heart valve defect. The doctors said her high blood pressure would cause her death when she reached menopausal age unless she had open heart surgery to repair the valve. The odds of surviving the surgery in 1945 were not such that she was willing to chance losing any time during mine and my younger brother's early formative years. Instead she spent those years getting to know us and allowing us to get to know her on the most private levels possible between mother and child.

During the last year, her difficulty in breathing was so severe she was unable to do much physically, but rarely too ill to talk to me. She told me what it would be like when she was gone, expressed her thankfulness at having had thirteen years as my earthly mom, prepared me for the teenage angst she knew was coming and filled me with enough love to last a life time. The last time I saw her was the afternoon of October 24, 1956. It was a Wednesday and I was at school in my eight-grade English class when I looked up to see one of my older half-brothers standing in the door. He was dressed in his Navy whites and looked so handsome that I almost burst with pride before I realized he would not be standing there unless something was terribly wrong.

Mama had been in the hospital for a couple of weeks and going downhill fast. My brother had come to get me at her request. She wanted to say good-bye. Before we were escorted into her room, Daddy cautioned Johnny and me to listen to and agree with anything she said.

"Hi, Mama."

"Come over close so you can hear. I've seen the seven candles and I have to go now. I don't know why God gave me a job and will not allow me to finish it. But I have to go now. I don't want you to come back to the hospital. I don't want you to see me like this. Remember me like I was. Olevia, I've had bad dreams about you running in the halls."

With that, she asked Aunt Grace for something to write on and was given a match cover and pencil. She wrote, "Be Good. ..." and handed it to me, too weak to finish it.

"Olevia, the three dots mean 'Love, Mama'. Carry that with you and any time you need me, just stop, close your eyes and think about me. I'll be there and you'll get your answers. I love you."

We each kissed her and we left. Two days later, she died at 3:15 a.m.

Her body died; her spirit continued to thrive in our house and lives in my life still today. Over the years, I've tested her promise of 'being there when I need her' and she's never let me down. If I stop, if I be quiet and if I listen, I hear that small, still voice leading me through every valley.

On January 6, 2003, the closest, most intimate relationship I've ever known changed dramatically when my best friend and healthy husband crossed over while we walked together in a park. We were planning a 40th anniversary trip to Australia when he became weak, dropped to the ground and died within two blocks of where he fell.

The contacts we have enjoyed since that day have been uncanny and, although I know there are people who would rationalize every one of them into some logical explanation, I know the truth. I'm not interested in reasonable clarifications, valid or not to the person sharing them. I choose to believe the connection continues and to enjoy the benefits of an enduring relationship morphed into what I need today.

Life is forever; there is no death, just a change of clothes for our souls. Heaven is not some place far away; it's right here all around us. We are surrounded by the spirits of those gone before and, with our permission, they stop by once in a while. I can't see a radio wave, but, when I find the station, I hear voices or music as clear as if the source stood next to me. I don't see the wind, but I feel it when the trees sway. I can't see the love in my granddaughter's eyes, but I feel it in my heart when she calls to say, "Let's hang out today, Grandma." Life is an adventure and earthly death is the door to the next stage.

Someday, I will see through a glass clearly and, for that reason, I have no fear of earthly death.

Writing Prompt
Death comes to everyone eventually. It is said that teenagers think they're invincible, and that's why they do all sorts of reckless things. As one gets older, one experiences more, and learns to be afraid of death. However, does there come a time, when you are afraid of death no more?

Describe what made you no longer fear death.

Format for this writing is general. It can be in poetry or prose.
The entry fee for this contest is $1.


Death Be Not Proud
Contest Winner

Recognized


This photo was taken by my grandson, George Dellos, and depicts what I'm trying to say in this essay. The dead tree stump, the dormant tree limb, the rainbow and the rain clouds. Life if made up of the living, the dead, the rainbows and the rain clouds. What do you think?
Pays one point and 2 member cents.


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