Tag: Death

Bonnie Kate: Christmas Day in the Morning

 

One late summer day in 2005, I was meandering through a local cemetery looking for inspiration for a topic in a local writing competition. Cemeteries are pretty reliable sources for quirky names, odd epitaphs, lonely souls, and the like. Not to mention just the isolation and quiet peace of the dead.

But these old Appalachian hills hold surprises. On the southern half of the Asbury Methodist Cemetery, I happened upon a small, heart-shaped tombstone. This is what it read:

Bonnie Kate Phillippi
Born Dec 25, 1905
Died Dec 25, 1905

On Quitting

 

Lazy author’s note: One of the effects of membership in this site is that I have written down a lot of things that I otherwise would not have. Many of these thoughts remain in editing limbo. The intent is to post my great wisdom and reap the internet points, but a side effect is that I have accidentally created a bit of journal that I have never before managed to convince myself to write. I wrote this back in the spring of 2018. I decided not to change much. There are no conclusions here, just thoughts. I’ve added a few notes in bold italics for updates and clarity. And because I like bold italics.

I joined Ricochet after I had been visiting the site for several years. The reason I had not joined earlier was that I had nothing to say. If I had a question or comment on a post, somebody else had already voiced it. All I had to do was scroll through the comments and wait and somebody did the work for me.

Trapped in Fear

 

As I write this essay, I don’t even know if I’m going to post it. I only know my heart is aching and I can’t make the pain go away. It’s one thing to know that Americans are suffering due to their fear of Covid-19 and the propaganda that has been promoted throughout this country; it’s another to see a friend suffering from a fear that she is unwilling or unable to overcome.

I have known this woman for more than ten years. She is a Leftie. We learned a long time ago that there is no point in discussing politics. She is smart and sweet and is a down-to-earth person in so many ways. She developed a wonderful program to help children learn to read by bringing dogs into the learning process. And she’s been a good friend.

A Time for Mourning

 

When a peaceful protestor was recently shot dead by a member of Antifa, the news was spotty at first. The reports went out that it was an Antifa member who was killed, and the left-wing crowds gathered to riot. Instead, the news was clarified that an Antifa member killed a Trump supporter. The Antifa members were proud. They said the man deserved it for being a “Fascist,” and that murdering him was merely, “taking out the trash.”

The Antifa member who murdered him fled across state lines. Federal Marshals attempted to arrest him. He did not comply, and fired at the Marshals. They returned fire, and now he is dead. Let us not make the same mistake Antifa made. Yes, he was a violent man and an assassin who died violently resisting arrest. He did not have to die, but he chose to resist arrest with a firearm. It was his choice. It was a bad choice. We can acknowledge these truths without celebration. We can be better than to say something similar to what Antifa members said about his victim.

Ave Atque Vale: Frank Zbozny, Rest In Peace

 

My husband, Frank Zbozny (see–I always told you I could win a game of Scrabble in one go, if only proper names were allowed), has died. Many of you know of his decades-long struggle with dementia, and of the cardiac and other physical problems that began to sap his strength in 2012 or thereabouts. But he was himself almost to the end. The last intelligible word he spoke to me was two days ago, after I enabled what I believe was one of his last pleasant physical sensations on this earth (so I did it often), the deployment of a just-warmed-in-the-dryer comforter over the top of him. He smiled. I asked him how that felt. He thought. And over the course of about ten seconds, the courtly and rather old-fashioned gentleman I married, 39 years ago on July 24 of this year (I wrote about that marriage here), managed to get the word out: “Deee–li–cious.”

We started out our married life quite poor, at least in financial terms. I was a Teaching Assistant, and Frank was an Assistant Professor of English, at a time (early 1980s) when a liberal arts career path was beginning to be deprecated in favor of a business education, so he wasn’t terribly well paid. We lived at the very end of a dead-end street, in a run-down little house picturesquely situated just above the exhaust vents of Pittsburgh’s Liberty Tunnels. I was assaulted once, going home after work as I walked up the hill from the streetcar stop. I was fondled by the disgusting creep (kneed him in the crotch), and my purse was stolen. Our house was ransacked one evening when we were out, and the very few items of value, both real and sentimental, that we owned, were taken. (I remember, on both of those occasions, feeling utterly violated. It was three-and-a-half decades before I felt anything else as wrenching, or even remotely comparable in terms of being flayed alive in a public space.) One day, I drove home from work to find gangs of thugs in the middle of the street watching a couple of pit bulls fight in the back of a pickup truck. I had them arrested and carted off to jail. It required a bit more moxie than it might today, as this was well before the days when cell phones were in widespread use. So I parked my car in the middle of the street above them (so they couldn’t leave, because dead-end), walked through and past them, while they jeered and insulted me, walked up the steps of the house, and called the police. Frank’s comment? “You would have made a good United States Marine.” Made me proud then. Almost makes me proud now.

It was, to say the least, an interesting place to start off our married life. Still, we had a lovely garden (auto and diesel exhaust fumes must be an excellent fertilizer and growth stimulant), and with the exception of the wanna-be circus performer woman across the street (Kathy) who regularly threw knives at the bathroom door while her husband (Tom) cowered inside, and the fellow next door (Jimbo) who held raucous parties at all hours of the day and night before succumbing to a drug overdose at a very young age, most of the neighbors (elderly, long-term residents) were lovely.

People Will Die

 

As the country starts to breathe a sigh of relief and emerges from the lockdown that is devastating our economy, people will use this opportunity to attack those who have supported the country’s efforts to re-open. They will cry out that people are dying. And they are right.

Whether the country began to re-open this month, or next month or in September, in other words, no matter when we strive to return to normal lives, people will die. Some will die from heart attacks, or pneumonia, or simply old age. And some will have contacted COVID-19. We will probably never know how the virus actually contributed to their deaths, but even now it has been implicated as the source of many deaths. And people who supported opening up will be called out for conspiring with those who are greedy, those who lack compassion and concern for other human beings.

Last Things

 

Mark Twain once wrote, “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.” I’ve always liked Twain, probably because his temperament and philosophy pretty much match my own. I’m in a Twain state of mind this morning, so I thought I’d use Twain as my spirit guide as I write a post on last things.

OK then, first things first: last words. I don’t know about you, but I want to leave a good last impression. Here’s Mark Twain with a hint to help us to do just that: “A man should be as particular about his last words as he is about his last breath. He should write them out on a slip of paper. . . .and never leave such a thing to the last hour of his life.”

For Mom

 

UPDATE: They let me in.

UPDATE 2: Mom passed away in the early morning hours. Thank you to everyone for your kindness.

Four weeks ago, I spent one of the best days of my life in Provo, Utah—recording a poem at BYU for later publication, attending a friend’s poetry reading, and visiting my mom in the assisted living facility she moved to only months ago.

Quote of the Day: The Novelty of Our Situation

 

“In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.” — C.S. Lewis

While Lewis wrote this in regard to the then-new threat of atomic warfare, it seems remarkably appropriate to today’s Chinese coronavirus scare. While we may be reacting to the threat in novel ways, the threat itself is as old as mankind. Yet death is inevitable once birth has occurred. Through our panic (as others have noted on Ricochet) some may be hastening their own deaths or the deaths of others.

Fear and Panic in Florida

 

My husband and I must be the only two seniors who embrace sanity over panic. We live in a 55+ community, where many people have pre-existing conditions or simply don’t take care of themselves. To deal with their anxiety regarding the COVID-19, they feel they have to do something. They’ve decided to shop. When we went to do our weekly shopping, you would have thought that a five-force hurricane was offshore bearing down on us. Shelves were cleared of bottled water, milk, and toilet paper. I’m not sure why they’ve gotten toilet paper, but I guess for those of us who are spoiled Westerners, toilet paper is a necessity.

We walked through the store, shaking our heads. I hope those people are feeling more at ease. I doubt it.

The fact is, the mystery and uncertainty of the COVID-19 virus are terrifying to people. They go to their worst-case scenario: we’re all going to die. Dead people will be lying in the streets, and those of us remaining will trip over their corpses. Those frightened people won’t tell you how they feel, but at a subconscious level I’m pretty sure that the fear and panic reaches those extreme levels.

We’re All Afraid

 

Fear is a normal state in human beings. At one time another, we’ve all experienced it. Soldiers know fear when they dive from bullets; some of us know fear when we need to drive on black ice; others experience fear when our children are seriously ill. We’ve all known fear.

Fear should also be a temporary state. It heightens our senses and awareness to notice when our safety or well-being is threatened; once the emergency passes, however, our bodies, for the most part, should return to a “normal state,” which is different for each person.

Quote of the Day: A Good Death

 

“During these last months the King walked with death as if death were a companion, an acquaintance whom he recognized and did not fear. In the end death came as a friend, and after a happy day of sunshine and sport, and after “good night” to those who loved him best, he fell asleep as every man or woman who strives to fear God and nothing else in the world may hope to do.” — Winston Churchill, February 7, 1952, on the death of King George VI

I think many people hope that this sort of death awaits them, but I doubt it’s an entirely true account of the King’s experience. It’s lovely rhetoric that honors and elevates a respected man and emphasizes his fearlessness.

Maybe, Baby

 

If you knew you only had a 1% chance of surviving tomorrow, would you consider that a death sentence? What about 2%, 5%, 10%… at what point would your odds of survival be good enough you wouldn’t feel doomed? And what if you had to purchase your fairly slim chance at survival by risking the life of another? When would you do it? What balance of risk would just barely escape counting as doom?

What if you were the other whose life was risked on the slim hope of avoiding someone else’s death sentence? When would that hope be worth it, and when would it be a forlorn one? How effective must our efforts to lift another’s doom be in order to merit the price?

To Herb Meyer’s Memory

 

Over the years, Ricochet has inspired lasting friendships, not least of which is many members’ friendship with @tommeyer, who’s not only a great guy, but someone who rendered Ricochet great service before he moved on to other things. When Herb Meyer, Tom’s father, died, the outpouring of thanksgiving for Herb’s life was tremendous. At the time, I dedicated a motet I was working on to Herb’s memory, but life having gotten in the way, I haven’t had a chance to share it with the Ricoverse until now:

Life and Death: A Balancing Act

 

Death, or the specter of death, has been weighing on my life lately. It feels like a weight that I am able to carry, but one that is sometimes oppressive.

I first noticed it around D-Day. Normally I try to take these events in stride. After all, life and death are inextricable partners, no matter how difficult they may seem. But the thought of soldiers dying in huge numbers, and their leaders knowing that they would likely be sacrificing their lives, was a sad awareness that still lingers.

Rest in Peace, Philip Charles Gabriel

 

Three weeks ago, my dad talked to me for the last time. Three days ago, he died.

During those final weeks, any words surprised me. He was diagnosed with dementia eight years ago, four years after that with Alzheimer’s disease, and hasn’t been able to converse for several months. Every visit, he was a bit quieter, a lot thinner; a little less like Dad.

But he could still manage that sweet smile I remembered from my youngest days. Dad was gentle, peaceful, and seemed happy for visits, even when he didn’t know who we were. My brother, sister, and I would sit around dad’s couch or bed; he was content to eavesdrop on our conversations, occasionally revealing sparks of recognition.

Member Post

 

This Memorial Day week-end has been especially poignant for me, and I’m not sure of the reasons. The touching posts we’ve seen about history, family and friends have both filled and hurt my heart; they are filled with pride, loss and truth. I’m reading Tom Cotton’s book on The Old Guard and did a post […]

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Quote of the Day: Nothing Lasts

 

“We are like children building a sand castle. We embellish it with beautiful shells, bits of driftwood, and pieces of colored glass. The castle is ours, off-limits to others. We’re willing to attack if others threaten to hurt it. Yet despite all our attachment, we know that the tide will inevitably come in and sweep the sand castle away. The trick is to enjoy it fully but without clinging, and when the time comes, let it dissolve back into the sea.” — Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

 At a rational level, we all know that we will eventually die. But it seems like a far off ending to our lives. The fact is, though, that everything dies. We can’t hold on to anything forever: relationships end, flowers die, cars end up in junkyards, no matter how often we try to save them.