Thinker Thursdays — Death’s Door
If I were to Imagine Heaven, I Would Imagine a Door Opening
“So, when I think of autumn, I think of somebody with hands who does not want me to die.” — Claudia MacTeer- Main Character/Narrator Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye
The Hands that Feed You
These people (with hands who don’t want you to die) are called parents. We love them. They love us…but unfortunately, they are going to die. They usually die before we do…and that…man…what a bummer!
I am back with Thinker Thursdays. Join us at Life in 10 an actual and virtual writing community where we think deeply about life…on Thursday. Because why not Thursday? It’s a day before Friday…and Friday is party time. No deep thinking on Friday! At least not for me.
What do you think about, when you think of Autumn. To me, Autumn is death in procession. Autumn is the year dying, and it happens every year, only to be reborn again in the Spring.
Do you think maybe our lives are like that? That we are in a constant cycle of death and rebirth? I think there are about a billion people over in Asia who pretty much think this how the whole death/life thing works. It makes sense…if you, let the whole Judeo-Christian, heaven and hell thing go and really think about it. Come on. Do it. It’s Thinker Thursdays.
Here, in the West, we are socialized not to think much about death. (Real talk, we’re not encouraged to think much at all.) Well…this becomes quite the quandary when you are facing death yourself or when you know someone who has died. Then we struggle with all of our unresolved issues around death, because we don’t really have a reasonable belief system in place around it.
I’m a Gen xer…which means that I am only one generation away from death. It’s true. Gen X, we really gotta start thinking about this death thing. Maybe making some plans. I wrote a will and I know that I want to be cremated.
We have to think of such things, especially since the Boomers, our parents, are dying. I know it’s hard to believe it. It sure seems hard as hell for them to believe it…why are Boomers running for president still? Just why? Even though they might want to, the Boomers ain’t gonna live forever. We need to start preparing our goodbyes, to this wild, wacky and wonderful generation that gave us the Beatles and Bill Gates. They changed the world, for better or worse. They really did.
I experienced my first boomer death in the Spring of 2018. Prior to that, I had known a few Boomers who had died, but they were freak things: car accidents, cancer, a bullet to the head …there were reasons.
In the Spring of 2018, my uncle just dropped dead. No one to this day has told me why. As far as everyone knew, he was fine! He had just finished dropping his family off at the airport and then…well…the family got a phone call in the place that they had just landed.
Shocked. We were all shocked. No none was expecting it. He wasn’t sick, as far as anyone knew…the only thing that he was — was seventy-six years old.
I have two Boomer parents, now well into their 70s. This is when they start checking out. Where are they going? Am I ultimately going to the same place? How did we get here so fast? Life is like that. The longer you live the more it speeds up like the downhill on a roller-coaster. Where does this ride ultimately end…and how? Do we ever find out?
More and more of my Gen X peers are coping with the death of their Boomer parents.. missing them terribly. For some it happens very fast. I was just conversing back and forth with a Boomer parent. We were having a delightful time on Facebook, joking about all the Trump gaffes. Drink Lysol, hahaha! Next thing I know, she is in the hospital, all alone (cue to the COVID-19 craziness) and dying. I was conversing via text and phone calls with her daughter, also a family friend, about how surreal the whole thing was. Just…what the…what happened?
I was so sad. This whole thing made me so, so sad.
She was a really good friend to both of my parents (of course closer to my mother than my father, because that’s usually how gender thing works in this life). But nevertheless, she was a really good family friend to all of us.
Now she’s gone. Where did she go?
I have to be honest, when either one of my parents dies, my mom or my dad, I think I am going to lose my shit.
I do. I do.
I mean, love them, or hate them they have always been a part of my life. Always.
Love them? Hate them? I can do either, depending on my mood and whatever shenanigans they happen to be up to. Oh they can press buttons, my parents. All parents and do. But…we love them…so much, more than we hate them, that’s for sure. We will miss them when they are gone. We really will.
So where are they going? What happens when you lose someone who has always been a part of your life? The people who literally made you what you are? What happens?
The reason I think I’m going to totally lose my shit, is that this has happened to me before. Someone who was a part of my life died suddenly (he was murdered actually); and even though he was only a part of my life briefly, (a year, maybe two depending on how you count the time) when he died I absolutely lost my shit.
We Need a Resolution!
Unresolved issues. Trust…don’t have unresolved issues with anyone who is going to die. Why? It is so fucking painful. In my memoir, The Way Through, Lessons Learned on Life, Love and the Journey, I write all about how I damn near had a nervous breakdown, over the murder of my first love. Remember Key? I wrote about him in my first Thinker Thursdays post on love.
I wrote about being struck with the realization that Key loved me, and vice versa. And God…it was really a very paradoxical situation because we were only 17. We were dealing with each other in the most healthiest of ways.
I mean c’mon. Intimate relationships…who among us gets them right at any age? But 17? It’s just not happening. That relationship was intense, and it ended…badly.
And…about 6 years after that relationship had ended, he was murdered. Oh boy. Yeah…that…ummm…no. Not a pleasant experience at all, grieving your first love ex- with whom you have all of these deeply painful unresolved issues.
You know what really ate me from the inside out, about that? He was murdered. That’s not no ordinary kind of death…and I knew it was coming for him. I knew it! Trust…the way he acted? I told him. Someone is going to come after you, with a gun, you keep this shit up.
I was right! Was I not right? I was, because that’s exactly what happened.
But… you can’t tell a young bad boy nothing.
Another thing that just felt like a dagger through my heart, was that about a month before he died, he sent a message to me through my sister. He asked me to call him. He could only get a message to me through my sister because I had cut off all contact with him. He was a bad boy. They are trouble. I thought it was for the best.
A week before he died, I had this strange and nagging feeling that I needed to call him. It was just weird. I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I really wanted to call him, but I really didn’t. It was a complicated. What happened between me and Key, I touch on very briefly in my memoir, but that experience is a novel in its own right. It is one hell of a love story. Like the real kind…no happy ending. Maybe one day I will write it up…or at least a fictious version of it.
Anyway, Key died in 1996. For ten years I carried grief about his death like it was a suitcase filed with cash. The first 6 months after his death, the grief was relentless and suffocating. But something happened and it began to ease up. (My drunk ass sister was involved, and I write about this special moment in my memoir.)
But even after I stopped grieving his death so heavily, there would be times when I would absolutely obsess over him and his death. I was always asking myself the same question about it. Why oh, why, didn’t I just call him before he died? Why…oh why?
I complained about this slip-up to my therapist so much, one day she was like,
“Ugh! I’m so tired of you whining about this thug boyfriend! He was bad news! I’m telling you! It was a good thing you got away from him!”
She really said that. And no, therapists are not supposed to say things like that. They are are supposed to shrinky lead you to your own conclusions. But my first therapist, (her name was Pat) was an impatient sort. She would just be like, you this is what’s up. I really dug that about her actually. She told me:
“Whatever you have to say to him, just say it!”
And I was all like, “But he’s dead.”
“I don’t care! Obviously, you have something you need to say to him. Do it.”
I thought this was crazy…but Pat was always having me do the craziest stuff.And usually it was helpful. (I really liked Pat. She was an incredible therapists. ) So, I did it. Actually, I wrote a letter to him. I wrote a letter on my desktop at work. I printed it out and, I “mailed it” by throwing it out of my car window. Yeah… I’m weird…just go with it.
After that…the weirdest stuff started happening to me. I swear. It’s stuff that will give you goose bumps. The culminating thing, that got me beyond my grief for him, forever, was this dream I had about him, except…it wasn’t a dream. It was a sort of different kind or reality. The excerpt below is taken directly from my memoir: The Way Through, Lessons Learned on Life, Love and the Journey.
A Different Kind of Reality
I had a dream. It seemed like a normal enough dream at first. I was in a house. The house seemed to be my house. It felt like it was my house, but then it looked nothing like the house that I currently occupied, in my real life. Actually, this house was a lot nicer than my house. (This house would be my new house, which I would acquire about a year later. It’s amazing the kind of information we can access from other realms.) Anyway, in my future dream house, I stood in the kitchen washing dishes. I heard a knock on my door, so I went and opened it. In he walked. I said,
“Oh my God! Key!”
The fact that he was dead really didn’t faze me. I was thrilled to see him! Ecstatic! I just knew it was him, really and truly him! (Not my brain chemically inducing some image of him.) This was him! I could just feel it.
Key looked just like he had the night of my senior prom in December of 1988. He looked like he was seventeen, way younger than me, wearing a tuxedo and those shiny dress shoes. I was confused because I couldn’t figure out where he was coming from (maybe 1988?), so I said to him:
“I’m thirty-two now; and I’m married. My husband’s name is Scott.”
He wasn’t surprised by this. It was as if he already knew.
“I also have three kids, Langston, Jalen and Camron. Three boys! Can you believe that?”
This didn’t particularly surprise him either. He just smiled. And so, I said, just knowing that this would shock him,
“And Star has a girl and two boys. My niece’s name is Dana. She’s got blond hair and blue eyes, because Star was messin around with a white boy. Isn’t that wild?”
Everyone tripped over that, but Key wasn’t fazed by it in the slightest. I seemed to be boring him. I thought maybe I should ask him about his family but . . . I wasn’t sure on the etiquette for conversing with a dead man. Did he remember everything from his life? What if he didn’t? Was it appropriate to talk to dead people about the life they had once lived or was that against the rules? I had no clue. I figured he was stuck at seventeen, so I asked him,
“Did you ever want kids?”
He really didn’t like the question. I’m not sure why, because he wasn’t talking to me. Not exactly. It was as if he was sending me his thoughts. I couldn’t understand his thoughts completely because they were not words or language . . . just thoughts. But he seemed to be thinking that he did have kids, but it bothered him that he couldn’t be with his kids. The whole thing seemed to be an unresolved, painful really touchy subject with him. I was sorry I’d said anything about it. I sure as hell did not know how to respond to all of that, not even in my dreams. But what I did next surprised even me. I said to Key,
“Come here! I want to show you something!”
And I was really excited. I was running through this house that I had never ever seen in my real life like I knew exactly where I was going. I took him out on a balcony that looked out onto this most beautiful forest. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen on earth. It had all these big gorgeous green plants and trees in it. The trees were glistening and shimmering. I felt like these trees represented something really profound and I wanted to share it with him.
“Isn’t it beautiful?”
He agreed that it was. We just stood there together for a moment. Then he looked at me very, very intensely. He sent me these thoughts that were so clear and so powerful there was no way I could misunderstand them. If I had to force them into words the words would be this:
I have to go now. But don’t worry about any of it. It’s all forgiven; and I love you. Don’t ever forget that I love you.
And then I woke up; and the moment I woke up I knew that my dream had not really been a dream at all! That dream had been a trip! I woke up with a feeling unlike anything I’d ever felt before. I felt good, incredibly, good! Like I had just come back from a vacation from the best place in the universe! And I was at peace, because I knew, beyond a doubt, I’d seen him and he had forgiven me. He wasn’t even mad! Not at all! And not only that but … he still loved me. Unbelievable. After all my transgressions, and after death, and all the unsaid things that had been between us: time and space, and all this unknown, I’d never imagined that he would still love me.
I know there are those who will say: Lisa, you really are crazy! Key could not have possibly talked to you. He is dead. You dreamt about him because you wanted to believe that. I don’t care. I don’t give a damn what anybody else believes because I know. I just know that conversation between Key and me was a reality … a different kind of reality than my everyday ordinary one … but still, a reality, nonetheless.
Death is a Door
So…what happens to us and our loved ones when we die? I began with a quote from Toni Morrison, one of my most beloved and cherished authors that I can read and reread time and time again. I will end with a quote from David Mitchell, who is also one of my most beloved and cherished authors that I can read and reread time and time again. Don’t you just love those kinds of writers? I feel like they are my best friends. Here is what Dave and I think about…on Thursdays.
I believe death is only a door. One closes, and another opens. If I were to imagine heaven, I would imagine a door opening. And he would be waiting for me there.
They are all going to be waiting for us. Everyone who we’ve lost in this world. They’re all waiting for us, on the other side of that door. That is what I think…that is what I dream of…on Thinker Thursdays.