To Die

by R D Larson


Le vent se lève, il faut tenter de vivre !
The wind is rising; it’s time to live!
— Paul Valéry, « Le Cimetière marin »

I woke up this morning feeling depressed, like something terrible was going to happen. I got up, made my tea and sat down to wait for the toast to pop up. Usually, tea and toast makes me feel good. You know — like just going on — doing what needs to be done. Living. But not today.

I was daydreaming or something and didn’t hear the toast. When I buttered it the toast tore. I hate that. I like a nice piece of toast that I can tear into bits and dip into my Earl Grey.

I went to dress leaving toast behind and sipped my cooling tea. I dressed in a warm sweater and jeans. Sneakers. I slipped on my coat, leaving my tea on the table.

I went out the door and started walking through the woods. Suddenly I stopped.

I knew what was wrong. I sensed that today I would die. I tried to reason myself out of it. But it was as clear a message as I had ever gotten — of intuition or hunch — I didn’t have them often. I shrugged. The ones that I had — well, they’d always been right. Only five of them in my entire life and they’d all been true.

I walked into the woods, mulling over the first flash of the future that I’d had. When I was ten, I knew my mother did not and would not ever love me. I asked her of course. But she lied and I knew it. She said so just before she died.

The second time I had a hunch I would be hit from behind on the way to work. Fifteen blocks later it happened. My car caught fire just as I leaped out. I was so calm that no one could explain it.

Then in 2000 when all the Y2K worries abounded I went to Hong Kong to ring in the new year. I am generally fearless. As I stood in the crowded banquet room, I felt a chill and thought perhaps I was getting a cold. The man next to me at the stroke of midnight shot himself in the temple. His blood and brains splattered me as I spilled my icy drink on to myself. What if he had missed?

The third time I got a view of the future I was visiting my lover. She was my perfect mate, my soul mate. I had known her for a few years and we had spoken of marriage. We had had a take-out dinner and were watching an old movie that just happened to be on the telly. As she curled in my arms, I had a chilling thought. She would leave me. She did and she didn’t, if you know what I mean. The following year she died of ovarian cancer.

The fourth and fifth times were recent. I was drawing plans for an estate in Maine. The corporate gigolo wanted it to have everything. He was the consummate consumer glutton. I was in my office when I felt a breeze, and my drawing was blown off my drafting table. I thought nothing of it until two days later when I found out that my client had been killed by a falling tree on his own property. I never finished the house. I guess from reading that over, technically there is really only four times. But that sudden unexpected chill has remained with me these many years.

I came out of the woods, still pondering my depression and my thought that it might be my last day to live. I walked out to the middle of the meadow. Sitting in the damp grass I looked up at the cerulean blue sky above. As I looked at that great bowl, I leaned farther and farther back.

Finally, I lay on my back, my hands at my side. I wasn’t afraid of dying. Everything dies and is reborn in some way. Energy continues, doesn’t it?

I began to write in my head. Wondrous stories of battles and chieftains. Crime dramas and love stories. Each one more complex and exciting than the last. As the words filled my mind they escaped from my lips in little clouds.

I could read the stories. The clouds grew fat with my words and floated upward, the letters growing smaller and smaller until I could no longer read them. Then the next story would begin. The plots seemed random and sporadic. I had ample time to re-read each one and make corrections.

How funny! I laughed to myself. The day continued with the sun rising over me like a disk of ancient Egyptian worship. I saw my word clouds grow larger as they rose until I could not read the words. Besides another story begged my attention.

When the sun set, I thought that I would probably die soon. I waited for it, because I wanted to know it, to experience it, to savor that last minute of life.

Nothing happened. I stayed until well after dark and nothing happened. I lived. No hunch, no magic moment, no resolution to the mystery of life.

I got up and walked home. I realized that my hunch about dying today was not a glimpse into a crystal ball; it was a reminder. There is “a time to live and a time to die”; we can’t have one without the other. And my life is in writing. It is time to live.


Copyright © 2008 by R D Larson

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