Tag Archives: death

The Good Samaritan 

Steel rods jut out from his legs.

We shove another pad underneath to soak up the blood.

The tube taped to his mouth makes his chest rise and fall.

A Good Samaritan from another state, helping a woman on the side of the road, now alone in a strange place, breathing through a machine.

Two rooms down is worse. The dr pulls the sensor slowly from a hole in a young man’s skull. No need to keep track of his pressure now, she says in not so many words. 

“But he ran the red light?” 

The nurses shake their heads up and down, silently rationalizing. This one didn’t follow the rules. 

No one speaks of the Good Samaritan.

Mortal

Maybe it was David Bowie or Alan Rickman or my friend’s beloved dad. Or maybe my forty-year-old brain is just beginning to grasp those words I’ve been hearing for years. Words I thought I understood—but now that I do understand them, realize I never before have.

Today is my life. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. And it doesn’t matter if I get all the things done I want to accomplish, or “become” the person I want to be. It doesn’t matter if I say sorry to the people I should apologize to, or forgive those who need forgiving.

My death will come sometime, unplanned. In a moment, my life will be over and I will be gone. I can’t plan it, can’t foresee it. It doesn’t live by my calendar. Death does not abide by my rules. The names I keep seeing in the news begin to cut deeper and deeper, as celebrities I’ve grown up with and lived as an adult on this planet with, begin to get off the bus. Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Corey Haim. I want to say to them—“Wait, the ride’s not over, why are you getting off here? We’re not done yet.” But they are done. That was their story.

People I partied with when I was younger are getting cancer. One had his cigarette-ruined front teeth pulled out and replaced with white, plastic ones. Double mastectomies. Friends on their second husbands. My mother is having cataracts removed on Monday, and my father now eats foods with a low glycemic index. My sister’s three kids spend  weekends at their dad’s. I think of myself as the twenty-year-old girl who packed up her Corolla and drove to Colorado one summer day at 90 miles per hour with her left foot sticking out the window. Who rented a hotel room by herself for the first time somewhere in Nebraska and sat out back on the train tracks smoking a cigarette and anticipating the rest of her life.

It goes so fast. I’ll miss you folks I’ve been sharing the planet with. It’s scary to keep driving on ahead without you. I was so used to you being here.

How much do our sadnesses weigh?

The Catholic bells go bung, bung.
What does love sound like?

Cars encase us-
caterpillars,
some the hairy kind.

The sky turns from
black to pink
to blue to
pink to black.

The little one
gets taller
and thinner
and asks me
When do we Die?

When we are finished living,
I say,
taking a bite of salmon kabob
and wondering if anyone heard
his question
on this bright sunny Saturday
outside patio
shoppers with bags
hairs done
shiny sandals
expensive blouses.

We sit in the dark touring Saturn
for the sixth or seventh time
What does the Universe smell like?

Emerging,
our skin dampens,
our legs creak,
we need water.

From death: life

sprout

Yanking the tomato plant out of the earth by its long, dry stem, I am reminded that everything dies. I grew this four-foot tall plant from seed. Back in early spring, I tucked a tiny, magical pod into soft dirt in a black plastic cup. I squirted the first two, tiny leaves with a spray bottle. The freezing wind blew day and night and it was difficult to believe I would ever leave this fragile thing outside.

Now this plant is almost as tall as me. It bore pound after pound of baseball-sized tomatoes, decorating my kitchen countertops, slowly turning red and making their way into sauces, salsas and soups. But I have picked the last round now and its leaves are brown and shriveled.

Somewhere there is a rule that says things naturally descend from order into chaos and never swing back in the other direction. But I cannot feel this rule when I am in my garden. Elbows deep in dirt and worms, I think this rule is not true.

Once I rip all the dead plants from the beds where they’ve thrived all summer, I rake in the compost. Then, I lay down the bodies of the Celebrity, Cherry and Romas, the Kung Pao, Jalapeno and Anaheim peppers, the green, red and yellow Bells. Some I lay side-by-side in neat rows like a Khmer Rouge mass grave. Others I pile high, limbs askew, like Civil War soldiers in a blown-up trench.

The snow comes and buries them. Under its protective cover, they surrender their power, leaking their juices into the ground for the benefit of future generations.

From their disintegration comes next year’s garden. Up from the chaos of decay grow bugs, grass, and flowers. From chaos: order. From death: life.