It was cold the day they buried me,
the mist shrinking back
from the hump of the hill.
The crows had arrived early.
They gathered like sleek flowers
in the branches of the undressed
oaks, strangely silent, as if waiting
to welcome the mourners, as they
walked, in sombre step, to their
expected places. That’s
the thing about being dead …..
you get to see things as they really
were, rather than how you thought
they were. It’s not quite the same as
when you are alive but it is similar.
Death has a way of making things
very clear. It forces you to see even
as it blinds you. Don’t get me wrong,
I wasn’t completely taken unawares.
After all, Death had been my companion
for many years. We had walked together,
through bright nights and dark days for
longer than I cared to forget, but I had
managed, through most of that time,
not to look too closely. But there comes
a time when it isn’t a matter of choice,
and you have no option. That’s when
Death holds your face in her long,
burning fingers and forces you to look
deep into her eyes. You can fall into
those eyes and never find your way
back. That’s why it’s better to choose
while you can. We can change our lives,
simply by choosing. But most of us do not
know that. The milk-haired girl taught me
that truth. Her face turned toward the wind,
poised like The Fool upon the precipice,
daring all to follow her into the unknown.
Like ancient Mania’s moon-child, she
clung to the bars that separated her
from the churning sea, as if at any
moment she might take flight and
soar through the brooding heavens,
at one with the screaming gulls.
I can still see her now, even though
it was so very long ago … the image
engraved upon memory, finely worked
with feeling. And that’s the other thing
Death taught me; it’s not enough just to
think about things, you have to feel them.
But I’m getting ahead of myself and stories
are meant to have a sequence. I’m not sure
why though, because most of the time life
doesn’t. We all like to think that it does, but
often it doesn’t. In truth it’s only something
we tell ourselves, in order to create the illusion
of certainty. But there is no certainty, never
was and never will be. When you look back
there’s nothing much of substance either.
It’s just a collection of moments pulled
together into something we call a story.
The truth is that most of the time we
live in the bits of our lives, dropping
in and out at the whim of what we
call consciousness. It’s an erratic
process and it’s a wonder that we’re
not all crazy by the end of it. The story
that we make out of the dregs and
dross of our lives that is the most
important thing because that is where
we find meaning, and meaning, I’ve
come to see, is the one quality that can
make the worst of life bearable.
Every story lives of and through itself
and it is in the telling that the threads
are sorted and re-worked. I happen
to think that words are living, feeling
things and, like human beings, they
breathe most deeply in the spirit of
change. And so the pattern is the same,
and yet different; the telling is true,
and yet false, and the story is timeless
and yet changed. For it is in the changing
that we can find a place for ourselves
in the story; and in the doing, re-make
the bed in which we must lie. This story
belongs to many, but we must all find our
own place in it. For life does not have
beginnings until we look back. There are
those who would say it has no future either,
only the eternal now, but it is of the future
that we dream most often, forgetting that
the past is both source and pattern of all dreams.