I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Our world today

Taken yesterday at the train station

Just last week, there were so few tulips up around town, but yesterday we saw these gorgeous tulips while on our six-mile walk from downtown to the Ferry Terminal in Fairhaven and back. On Thursday, Melanie and I will venture down to the Tulip Festival in Skagit Valley to see what's showing up there. When Lily and I traveled there a few weeks ago (on Easter Sunday), the daffodils were open but very few of the tulips. It's amazing how quickly that has changed.

When I went to bed last night, I wondered what I might write about today. It often comes to me during the night, but not always. It's my first task of the week, if I consider Sunday as being the first day of the week and not the last. Sunday is different: on some calendars it is on the right side and others on the left. Curious, isn't it?

Of course, we make it up ourselves. There is really no difference between days of the week, or months or years, for that matter. The sun rises and sets as it has been doing since the dawn of time, but here we are, observers who have given names to it all and believe that we are in charge of things. How silly is that? I have no more control of my life than I do over the change of seasons or the weather. 

As I make my way through this beautiful springtime, I ponder the state of the world, and especially my country. We are in the midst of a terrible period of gun violence in America, with more than 45 mass shootings in the past MONTH. People going about their business, in grocery stores, or at work, or simply just being outside, are killed for no reason other than some crazy man with a gun, usually an assault rifle. What is happening? Can it be changed or at least mitigated? It fills me with despair.

And it makes me realize that nobody anywhere is safe from it. Just as I have no idea when it will be my time to die, I realize that there is no guarantee that I will not be shot dead in the street today. Or at the coffee shop. Or in a grocery store. If not me, then some other poor soul who doesn't know where the bullets are coming from, or why. It's hard enough to navigate through our lives, but now we must be aware of death coming from an unknown adversary.

We, my partner and I, talked yesterday about taking the time to fill out some forms that will help each other if we might be killed suddenly. Ways that we can cope if we are left behind and need to take care of business. I looked online and there are plenty of workbooks and other tools for this task. We have already filled out and registered our Advance Directives, but that doesn't take care of the details we need to know if for some reason we are left behind. I found this one that I particularly like, The Final Chapter: An End of Life Organizational Planning Tool. Here's an excerpt from the description:

Having everything documented in one place relieves emotional stress, heartache, and chaos for those who are grieving. Now, more than ever, our digital world necessitates a structured depository for passwords, accounts, insurance details and other crucial information, as much of it is saved online and cannot be accessed by anyone after death.This book provides peace of mind, financial security, guidance, direction, and knowledge for the survivors’ coming days and will be a major part of your legacy. 

I went ahead and ordered this one, after reading several reviews from different versions and found this one quite useful. Many people have been using things like this during the Covid pandemic, and some reviewers were grateful for having had so much of their burden lifted when a loved one ended up dying in the hospital. We just never know how our final chapter will be written. We live in an uncertain world in an uncertain time, and this is one way to give some semblance of control over our lives. 

I realize that my readers might have found other ways to cope with today's world, and I would be so happy to hear of other approaches to this time in life. One thing I know for sure: nobody can ever say about me that I left prematurely, since I have already lived a full life. Many of those who were killed in the most recent shooting were young and their families certainly didn't expect this. 

We think about leaving behind a legacy for our loved ones, but the most important thing I can do is to remove some of the pain from my partner, who would have to figure out how to access all the different avenues left unfinished, such as (perhaps) this blog, how to get onto it and let my readers know I am gone. We all die, and certainly I have been blessed to have my faculties intact as I begin to make my way through my own final chapter. I don't have an end date, none of us do for sure, but by the time we get into our late seventies, we know it's not that far in the future. It's actually kind of a relief to open up to this task and get it behind me.

Yesterday I watched the funeral of Prince Philip, who died at 99, and had lived a full and meaningful life. I was moved by the image of his sword and his hat on top of his casket, reminding me of my own son's memorial service that had his helmet and boots in front of his picture, since he died while serving in the Army. The Prince was married to the Queen for 73 years and I was also moved by the picture of her sitting alone in the chapel. We do what we can to lessen the burden of our passing for our loved ones. Nothing can remove the grief we feel for our loss, but it's so much easier when it is expected and not a sudden death, such as from being shot dead while shopping for groceries. But even that, we can recover from.

You will lose someone you can't live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn't seal back up. And you come through. It's like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly - that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp. —Anne Lamott

 I wish I could have written about something more uplifting and positive, but that's just not where my mind is today. It is the state of our world today, and of my heart and mind as well. That doesn't mean I am not hopeful for the future, and for all the good that surrounds me. Sometimes life is a mixed bag, isn't it? 

But my dear partner still sleeps next to me, as normal, gently breathing, and my tea is long gone, and it's time to out of bed and step into the rest of my day. And nothing can stop me from giving thanks for the delight that all the opening flowers fill me with. And for you, my dear readers. I hope you will have a lovely and safe week, until we meet again. 


Anvilcloud said...

Google calendar puts it on the right. I have never seen another calendar do it that way, but it makes as much sense as anything since it is on the weekEND.

We "as in mostly Sue" have recently updated what we call our emergency file.

Death is reality. I don't find it morbid like many others do.

gigi-hawaii said...

I had to smile at the statement that SG will have to inform your readers that you have passed. That would be sweet. I am not sure that David would do the same. Does he even know how to access a blog? It might be too hard for him.

Elephant's Child said...

Thank you for this post.
I have been watching the reports of gun violence in your country and aching. As you so often do you have covered matters that I have been considering. My partner refuses to make a will, much less anything else. Which fills me with fear and with horror.
And thank you for the splashes of beauty which also adorn this post.

Linda Reeder said...

While I am aware of the surge in shootings as well as the surge in Covid cases, I cannot dwell on them. This spring time is too beautiful and full of life. I must treasure it as long as I can.
I just came in from taking a stroll around my garden, full of blooming things and sweet scents and bird song and my friend Charlie Cat to keep me company. It was lovely.
I dealt with death this week, the loss of a loved one, and I am spent on death for now. Yesterday we celebrated my granddaughter's 16th birthday, a day of fun and life. Tomorrow we will be in the tulip fields and gardens, before spending a night and day on Whidbey Island. WE will love the life around us.
I know, dear friend, that you too will get out and enJoy the beauty around you. That's what you do. Being prepared is good, but then we get out and LIVE!

William Kendall said...

It is discouraging how your country can't come to grips with its gun problem.

The tulips are a delight.

Arkansas Patti said...

I have often said I fear no death but would hate it to be at the whim of a demented mind. Anymore with our gun violence, that becomes more of a possibility. Don't know an answer, just pray someone does.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I are talking about death and dying issues these days since I agreed to be the executor of my friend’s will. She has stage 4 kidney cancer. It is good to have these discussions and get things documented. It will make it a lot easier when...

Red said...

Gun violence continues to march on and take it's toll. Completely inept politicians are hopeless in coming up with some solution. How can we choose different people to restore order. I'm extremely worried about what could happen in Minneapolis. Like you I do have some things organized for the end of my life. I'm trying to make things easier for my kids to close out my affairs. It's not easy. few weeks ago I had an acquaintance choose assisted death as he had Parkinson's.

ApacheDug said...

I liked your observation of how we "make it up ourselves", how we measure & label time. To think it boils down to where we are in relation to our own little sun in our own little speck of the cosmos... As for the rest of your piece DJan, it didn't help my anxiety, but I'm still glad you wrote it. We're on a path that simply can't continue. These frighteningly random killings, we're long past year after year of them, now it's week after week. And the same corrupted leaders vowing to protect our rights to our arsenals (and their padded pockets). But we're too paranoid & small-minded to let our guns go, so I see nothing changing for a long time. Every day I get out & do my thing, and come home safely I almost feel blessed.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I have a book on my desk where we keep everything updated...mostly! Recently I updated passwords etc.
Oh Minneapolis is a horrid place now a days...may as well just wipe it off the map or make it its own State...Gov Waltz is of no help down there...what a bunch of idiots...I imagine they will be marching and burning all summer...I try not to listen to that garbage news.
I don't know what the answer is to stopping mass shootings...it sounds like there were many red flags with the fedx shootings...and they did no good.
As a nation we are not making progress forward in anything...too many politicians that have been around too long...term limits would help. This good old boy crap has got to stop.
Oh I hope the tulips are bEautiful for you on Thursday!

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Let me start by saying thank you. Not just for this post but for so many that have helped me put some focus on how to get prepared for what follows the golden years. Those of us who have found your blog are lucky to have you helping us, in a gentle way, get things organized for our families. Another thank you for the link to The Final Chapter: An End of Life Organizational Planning Tool. I placed my order with Amazon for the paperback. I like what Linda Reeder said about not wanting to dwell on the shootings. I am with her on that but it is so difficult with these gun shootings slapping us in the face almost daily. It is so difficult for me to get my mind wrapped around the fact that America is the most advanced country in the world while also being one of the most dangerous for random gun violence. Lastly, a compliment on your starting photos for today’s post and last week’s as well. Perfect for the season. Wishing you and SG a fine week ahead. Hope you enjoy several nice walks in our (finally!) warm weather. Stay safe! John

Rita said...

Leah is much more filled in than Dagan is--LOL! She knows where I keep all my passwords and she will let you all know if I pass away suddenly or end up in the hospital or whatever and can't blog on a Monday. I set them up to be able to make legal decisions for me if I am unable to. Then I haven't had to think about it.

Can't believe how many shootings we have had and continue to have. If congress doesn't make some changes soon they never will.

Glenda Beall said...

While I am avoiding bad news as much as possible, I can't escape the awful mass shootings and until this country wakes up and demands gun control and enforces gun laws, I don't think we can ever feel safe again.
I knew a woman who had bad mental problems and had been under care of mental health therapists for years who bought a handgun with no checking of any kind. The local police gave her a permit and even helped her learn to load and shoot it. She was a person who had fits of anger and depression. No one bothered to look at her mental health history. I am so saddened by the way this country has become a violent place with violent people.

I am looking at spring more and watching less news, but in some ways I think I am trying to escape reality, escape the horror of seeing death on the screen every day. As we age, we do think of our own mortality more and more. I find myself wallowing in nostalgia for those days when my loved ones were still here with me. That makes me sad.

Galen Pearl said...

The practical and the philosophical come together beautifully in this post. The logistics of death and the deep realization of the cycles of life and death and our meaning in the world. Funerals and symbolism -- the place of ritual. The emotional repercussions and the practicalities faced by those left behind. Like you, I've been trying to get things in order. Tools like the one you mentioned can be so helpful. I ordered a similar tool with a funnier name -- I'm Dead, Now What?

Like Glenda, I'm not watching the news very much. I'm aware of what is happening, but I choose not to watch the endless videos of death. I saw the first Trillium blossoms at the cabin last weekend. I watch the hummingbirds at the feeder. I breathe into spring with gratitude. And touch with compassion all the grief and suffering in the world around me.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Follow up to my comment a few days ago ... I received The Final Chapter. This book is like a workbook. Excellent size and organization. This is going to be very helpful to me and my spouse. I just wanted to say thank you! John