At Death’s Door?


We tend to believe ourselves to be physical beings with a spiritual core.

But what we really are is spiritual beings with a physical shell.

—Author Unknown

As I have gotten older I have realized that there is no guarantee that we will all grow old. And along the way, starting in high school, I realized that this is but an illusion. That we will all grow old. Although we all expect to grow old.

By the time I hit 30, there were some I knew along the way that were gone. Even more shocking, some who died in their 30s and 40s from “natural causes”. One I knew in grade school died from drugs, one from a car accident, one from suicide, and one from Vietnam. And I suppose 40 is an important milestone. Before 40, we don’t consider our own mortality but once you have reached that point, your reminded that all things here are temporary.

I think as most of us grow older, male and female, we consider ourselves to be eternally 20 in a body that, with the fullness of time, occasionally laughs at our mind’s requests.

Last summer, I decided after some years to put screens over the gutters. I have this large camphor tree in the front yard that the city, considering it a “heritage tree” (with a trunk of a certain girth), will not let me cut down. Whom I had to pay $50 for them to come out and tell me that I couldn’t cut my own tree down.

Which could lead to a segue in the morality of governments telling you what trees you can cut and not cut on your own property.

For years, that tree would fill the gutters in a matter of weeks. Which meant that the water could go into the walls.

I have always taken some pride in doing some things myself, be it car maintenance or home repair. Not only for the satisfaction of learning about something and knowing that I solved the problem, but for saving money. I doubt that I could have justified having 2 old Mercedes in the condition that I keep them (the style to which they are accustomed!) without at least doing a lot of the repairs – and maintenance – on my own.

And in the case of the screens over the gutters, pay someone $3,000-$4,000 or go to Home Depot and with $150 in parts, do it myself? Yep, I am sure that many of these professional companies would say that their screens are better. They might be right.

But with that job came yet another of those little revelations one gets with an aging body.

It was just a couple of years ago I would have scampered up onto that roof like a monkey and walked around as if it was my domain. Even the narrow 2’ section where I have to grip the wall of the 2nd story so as not to fall on to the ground.

Now I was like a lumbering bear.

And I had a sense that I had better take it easy up there! There was a last section on the 2nd story roof that required me to lie on my stomach right on the edge – 20’ off the ground – and push in the last section of screen on a corner gutter.

Only that last 2 foot section wouldn’t  go in all the way! You had to push in about 3” of the screen under the shingles and then clip the other edge of the screen to the gutter.

And there were nails in the shingles – or something – that wouldn’t allow me to push in that 3”.

So rather than try and wrestle it into submission (and possibly losing my balance and falling 20 feet to the ground) I decided that it was just fine the way it was. I wouldn’t have gone that way just a few years ago. We would have had an endurance contest, that gutter and I.

I have a vivid imagination, and saw myself in the hospital all because I was trying to push that screen in the last little bit.

Getting back to the anonymous author, this post by Lex, culled from the Wayback Machine 2 years ago, fascinated me (as it apparently fascinated Lex).

What if all we know in this universe – all that we “assume” that forms our physical knowledge – is but an illusion? And through Man’s arrogance, thinking that he is learning more and more about his surroundings, thinks he is rapidly learning all there is to know?

And that which we know of as time comes with the physical universe?

I became acutely aware of life’s uncertain nature when years ago, someone close to me died suddenly. And remembering the shocked family going through the home trying to find any evidence of a will. That is when I learned that for the overwhelming percentage of people, about 60%-70% have no provisions with a will at the time of their death.

Then it goes into probate, with, at least a court in California, assigning an executor. The state determines who gets what. Which at least in California is a nice job to have. The assigned executor gets (or got) a percentage of the estate.  Want to care for those you love? Make sure those relatives you want nothing to do with stay out of the picture? A will or trust that you had the foresight to make is the only way to do that.

I am sure there are a million stories out there of things that would have shocked the person who left, seeing how their earthly possessions are dispersed, and all for their negligence in failing to make arrangements. I can tell you about one in my distant family, but perhaps I have said enough on this issue.

By the time I hit 50, things for me seemed the same as 40.

60 became the “iffy” decade.

Still 20 inside, although when the cashiers were required to ask me for an ID when I was buying beer or wine, when producing it I said “I just turned 21, but it’s been a helluva life”.  

Which never failed to get a laugh.

I just turned 70 a few months ago, and that was another milestone.

No more wondering if I have finally achieved OF status. I think I am there.  And you know the giveaway?


Pills that I never needed before.

Then a friend, who is a health nut, tried to help me with my chronic fatigue by giving me a regimen of vitamins. And melatonin to aid in sleeping. Yet more pills. Just started those – we’ll see if they make a difference.

Maybe even the pills aren’t a final reminder. Maybe I need a plastic pill container labeled Monday through Friday, to know which pills to take when.

I like the classic definition of “elderly”.

That is anyone at least 10 years older than you.

Remember when someone 30 seemed ancient?

A few days ago, a friend asked me to accompany her to the Bay Area, where she is going to meet with her family and distribute the furnishings of a deceased member. And given the times today told her and her family that I never thought I would look forward to a trip out of town to help move furniture.

Which got some more laughter.

What do the millennials say?


And she insisted – insisted I say! – that I give her the name and phone number of a next of kin, on the account that I might drop dead during the sojourn.

Because, who knows?  

That kind of shocked me.

My father died at age 95, and was surprised that he lived that long. He had just come back from the Korean War, and a couple of days later in his town his father died of a heart attack. At age 59. He had to go identify him.

Those who knew my father remarked at how matter of fact he was in taking over the things that needed to be done, having just come back from 3 years of seeing death, hardship and destruction.

You do what you have to do, he is reputed to have said. I was 3 at the time.

My mother is 96.

But you never know.

I had a elderly neighbor for years who, because of her near blindness, accompanied me on many car club events. One day in her 80s, she had a heart attack. She was a character. Perhaps to honor her one quick story. She and her large family came from Mexico, and grew up nearby along the river. And they worked very hard. After getting married, she and her husband built what became a large marina on the river. With a restaurant.

And because she wasn’t afraid of work, she sometimes served as a waitress at that restaurant. And I told her that probably nobody she served at the tables had any idea that she owned the place.

Anyway, there came a time when she and her husband became estranged.

She bought her house, and the husband had his house.

But they never got divorced.

One time the husband, trying to win her back, asked her if she’d like a car and if so, what kind? He promised to get whatever car she wanted.

She told me that growing up, she always admired those little 2 seat T-Birds, and knew that Mercedes had a car that reminded her of that T-Bird.

So her husband, grumbling to himself (she told me years later) that “she would pick one of the most expensive cars”, went to the dealer and brought home a Tobacco Brown Mercedes-Benz SL.

She drove that car for years until her eyesight made her figuratively “see the light”.

And she never got back with her husband.

The EMTs who picked her up were able to revive her. She said that at her age, being revived from a heart attack was so unusual that the EMTs talked about it later.

But she told me of a near death experience. And she said that the experience was so pleasant that she would never fear death again.

She is gone, now.

As for my friend asking for my next of kin, I was a bit taken aback by the request. And I thought it a bit funny. Mark Twain’s proclamation came to mind.

But you never know.

I expect to see some old friends and loved ones, and at least one good friend whom I had never met here.

And there will be laughter.


Filed under Life

2 responses to “At Death’s Door?

  1. unkawill

    I think a bit of Lex has rubbed off on you. Well done.

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