Sunday, May 5, 2013

Packing For The Afterlife


As I get older I continue to gain small insights into life, insights made more tangible and relevant through the growing realization that life is both fragile and tentative.  This wisdom arrives more forthrightly these days as I begin to bid farewell to high school classmates, my old military buddies and others who were dear to me.

Oh sure, sometimes these deaths depress me, make me more aware of my own mortality.  But, just as kindergarten prepares you for full time school, and military training prepares you for combat, the growing onslaught of the death of friends prepares you for your own voyage into the afterlife.

So you get up each day and set out to accomplish those mundane tasks that fill out your day.  But you also begin packing for the afterlife, at least metaphorically.  For instance, just the other day I learned that another of my old Vietnam buddies has passed.  The dramatics of that passing become more pronounced for your war buddies because, all too often, the last image you have of them is a time-frozen photo of a young man standing in some long ago noon, smiling into a camera lens, full of the juices of youth and so much alive, anticipating the unfolding of his long life.  Then you learn that the once young man has now passed.  So you take those memories of your buddy; the wild night in a Saigon bar, a marathon poker session, or a fortnight of nights where you sat in a bunker and talked about family and home and shared your life dreams.   So you quietly pack that away in your metaphorical suitcase, making it ready for your own voyage that must surely come soon.  

And friends I made only twenty years ago, some older than me, some not...have also passed.  Only twenty years ago four gentlemen once sat for supper each night in a dining hall in Saudi Arabia.  We used that dining hour to exchange life experiences, tell jokes, share the news of the day, gossip a bit about fellow workers, each of us growing a bit as we shared parts of ourselves.  Two of those gentlemen are now gone, their absence somehow more pronounced because of the recency of our friendship.  So you pack those memories away as well, while making a note to get together in the afterlife and share a laugh or two, perhaps over bad cheesecake and coffee.

With each passing of a loved one, or a dear friend, that "suitcase for the afterlife" begins to be more substantial, making the surety of your own voyage more imminent, and more real.  Oh, rest assured, this "afterlife packing" is not for the young.  Our blessed creator thankfully instills in the youthful a sense of immortality; they give no thoughts to packing for the afterlife.  And that is how it should be.

And sadly, there are those who contemplate death as something to be feared..and never ever thought about!  Sad, because the denial of the natural life cycle is absurd and reflective of a shallow mind.

No, I believe one must cherish life, for as long as life exists, but one must also possess enough wisdom to understand that death is as natural as birth.  And a wise man will prepare himself for that ultimate voyage; pack away the memories, make a note to meet up again with your fellow voyagers when at last you meet again in some ethereal place!  

So I prepare for my next voyage by giving as much love as I can to those I leave behind, tell them all that I wanted to say, pray for the future that lays before them, and then prepare to leave the stage with as much grace as possible.  

I have had to pack for year long trips many times in my life.  I've learned to pack meticulously, making sure I have what I'll need for my long journey.  Packing for the afterlife is a bit different.  The afterlife suitcase lies open only within the confines of my heart,  half packed with wisdom, with knowledge, with warm memories of those who travelled with me for a time, who now wait at the end of the road, waving and smiling and bidding me welcome.

Until that final voyage I'll rejoice in each new morning of this world, with just an occasional glance at that bright and shiny spot just over the far horizon.


Ken said...

If before you go, you take time to put together a "Best Of" volume, be sure you include this one. This is one of your "out of the Park!" hits. That seems inadequate for this one in particular but it's Sunday morning and the cobwebs are rather thick today.
I feel badly for those who fear death. That is an important and rather large part of life really. My Mother prepared me best by teaching me to love God and have faith that He will be there when I arrive, that has left me comfortable with the whole affair so that I may prepare in a more pleasant way than spending all my time consumed with fear.
Yours sounds like a good and full life. I know what you have given here is really a great gift that I enjoy with every entry. Thank you for that!

A Modest Scribler said...

Ken, it is so satisfying when I have touched someone with my writings.

Apparently my blog today had some impact one someone who regards me as a political foe. His posting on Craig's list this morning was quite remarkable...and touched me as few do. I share it with you here:

RE: Packing For The Afterlife (I was going to flag it BUT....)

...that blog article made me too paralyzingly sad to flag it. A post that has killed my will to flag. I didn't think that was even possible. Now all I want is Kleenex.

That blog post article has put me in a morbidly depressed. Clearly, I haven't fully accepted the inevitable conclusion that I'm gonna die someday. That sucks just as much as knowing almost everyone I know that's older than me will die off and I'm going to witness that crap. Sucks.

And even though you seem mentally and emotionally prepared in accepting death's inevitable conclusion to this thing called life, I however sincerely hope your number won't be up anytime soon! I'd rather be annoyed a million times and then some by whatever you could possibly post, than hear that you passed on. May you "Just Common Sense" blog poster continue to "annoy" me for a good long time to come! Today I'm gonna even repost your blog link. How's that? Sorry to hear about those whom you lost. I'm sure you'll eventually meet up with many of them in the afterlife. In the meantime, I hope you won't be leaving us anytime soon! Pack up only in the most figurative sense, please. Have a good day!