The following piece was presented at the Jersey City Writers’ monthly genre event–Reflections: A Reading of Memoir Vignettes. Please enjoy.
I still couldn’t believe Tio Mario was gone. I had stood by his bedside during hospice and while he was semi-conscious he had held my hand. I had held his right back. The call, the wake, the funeral… it was over so fast, and left so many loved ones: his wife, his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, all grieving. Before the cancer had taken him, he had lived life more fully than most, including myself. I escaped to the woods to try to find some solace from the ever present question torturing me, “Is death the end? An oblivion for the soul?”
I found no peace during my short hike in the Watchung Reservation. Everything looked like it was dying. Weathermen on the news rejoiced at the change of seasons. I found myself hating them. The snow was melting fast, and swift streams trickled into grates in the ground near the roads. The sight seemed to announce that winter was over, dead. Spring had begun. Only through the death of one could the other begin its life.
But then I suddenly realized… all of this fallen snow around me, waiting to be washed away underground… it had not died. The little, temporary streams it melted into also would not die. One state had not conquered the other. The lines were not so clear. It was all shifting, evolving, changing, but nothing had vanished. Perhaps the sad, gray piles of cold slush were liberated with this change but not gone, not over forever, not dead.
The snow I saw before me might one day cap a mountain’s peak or caress a whale’s slick skin as part of the deep ocean. It may rain down on me or perhaps I will drink it some day, and it will aid my life.
I was permeated with the realization that we are all interconnected, and as long as that is so, there can be no true death. No end. One day, winter will come again and with it more snow. Perhaps the snow we will see would have once been steam rising up from a geyser, or part of the mist that made up a rainbow, or a tear shed for a loved one. Perhaps it will have existed as all of these things, but we will see it simply as the snow that is there, and then not there; blind to the ever shifting existence, it’s never ending life.
Death. We have made a great mistake inventing such a word. Nothing in this world is wasted, nothing ever fully disappears. What can be as ethereal as water besides the soul? As individual as a molecule and as connected as the drops that make up the sea. Always with the potential to become something else, shift into a new state of being. I was able to find some comfort in these words, and I wrote them down so I can remember in future times of grief.