I’m not terribly spiritual. Given the immensity and implacability of the universe, and the illogicality of believing in a personal deity who just happens to adhere to my church’s particular dogma, I just can’t bring myself to believe in the Numinous Aura of Everything. I especially can’t buy into the idea of any kind of afterlife. Historically, in my church, the original idea was a resurrection, not a Caribbean resort of the deceased, but people have gotten invested in the idea of an upstairs/downstairs pair of departure lounges.
It’s just the way my brain is configured. Believe me, I’ve tried. I got confirmed in the Episcopal Church, I read the Bible cover to cover, and I sought solace in Taoism and Zen Buddhism. In the end, though I meditate every day, and though I cheerfully pray every day to be kind, content, and present, it’s more of a practical habit than any kind of fervency on my part.
Just now, I got back from another visit to my late husband’s grave. I saw him dead, mind you, and I watched him die for a very long time before that in hospice; it looked extremely final after the end when he lay there with his eyeballs sinking in and his mouth agape. I told hospice to notify the funeral home, and they cremated him, taking off his wedding ring and getting it to me as I asked. I watched someone put the box of his ashes in his little cremation plot, to the accompaniment of a nice service that he would have approved of. His stone plaque arrived much earlier than they told me it would. It has his name and the dates of his birth and death on it. I took care of him, as I told him I would. He took comfort in the fact that it was a pretty place and that there is room for my ashes and for my name and dates too. It was for his sake, while he was dying, that I took care of everything and told him about it.
But the human brain is nothing if not a human brain, and every time I go, I stand there and start to cry. I talk to him. I call him an asshole and son-of-a-bitch for leaving me, which is pretty much how I would put it to his face because it would have made him snicker. Today, I told him about donating most of the bedding I bought while he was sick. Having a hospital bed downstairs and a bed upstairs when he was incontinent would have meant one hell of a lot of hasty laundry. Now I don’t need it, I said. I told him I’m trying to donate his twin bed to a second hand furniture place. I commented that I didn’t realize he asked me to take over the bill-paying in the 90s; I didn’t think it was that long ago. He used to twist himself in knots about the bills.
I told him his kid misses him, and said it was funny how he and his kid both avoided the subject of his death around each other, when neither one of them is terribly sentimental. I didn’t mention the porn I found yesterday in one of his detachable hard drives, because he had told me he got rid of it all before he died and it would have embarrassed him to know he messed up. I deleted it all, as he intended, but I didn’t bother him with the fact.
I worried that he was cold, there in the ground, and lonely. I didn’t want to leave him there, even though he’s a crunchy clump of ashes in a cardboard box inside a vault.
Yeah, no. Brains, man. Human beings. We don’t make sense. I got in my car and drove away crying, and when I got home I scheduled my next visit.
6 thoughts on “Rational as all get-out”
Delia, now that we are sort-of connected again, no matter how many gerbils are in my brain at any moment, I stop what I am doing to sit down and read what you wrote. It feels like I am rewarding myself when I read your stories, and that’s maybe inappropriate because I am destined for the downstairs lounge.
Well, that’s a hell of a nice thing to say. Thank you.
I hope we get to customize those departure lounges. If I’m dead I want one of those ugly comfortable recliners and all the fresh popcorn I can eat.
Perfect – the human brain exactly. Thank you
One nice thing about getting older is being perfectly fine with what my brain decides to get jiggy about.
No real words for this, but thank you for writing it. I’m lucky enough to still have my husband, but this makes me think of my dad. I feel much as you do about religion, as did Dad. He was a political geographer and computer scientist. I often imagine what I’d tell him about events since 2010 if I got to talk with him again. While cooking the other week I got very detailed about it. His death gutted me, but you know (or expect) your parents will die before you. Hard to picture what it will be like when my partner goes, if he goes before me.
I like the idea of keeping someone updated on world events!
Every death is different. I don’t think you can predict how you’ll react. In some ways my mother’s death was a lot harder. I always expected my husband to go before me. It was a miracle he lived so long.