All Consuming

I stepped out of the townhouse this morning and back into the coastal June Gloom of our seaside town.  A few meters away cars and trucks raced busily on their way creating a dull roar that ebbed and flowed like the tide a half mile the other direction.  So much pushing and pulling on this narrow collection of dry-land crumbs.

In the room above, a man is dying.  A man who has had his share of ups and downs, successes and failures, joys and disappointments.  A man who served his country, served his family, and is waiting to be served his final notice.  In that bright little room a daughter worries and dabs at tears.  A light window covering flaps out into the room on puffs of air outside.  A television plays mutely across the room.
At times the incongruity can be jarring.  Moving back and forth with just a few steps between life and death, sorrow and business-as-usual.  On the small cul-de-sac outside the townhome nobody knows that a man is dying.  A World War II veteran who spoke incessantly of his years of service in the South Pacific, who was rightfully proud of his service as a Marine.  A woman cleans up yard debris across the street.  I walk to my car already turning up the volume of my cell phone in case I receive a call.
We rage against death.  Ignore it.  Deny it.  Expend our time and money and energy to put it off as long as possible.  We rage against it and perhaps we rage against the perceived injustice that even though we die, the world continues around our cooling corpse.  Business-as-usual.  Tides pushing and pulling against billions of lives scrabbled for in greater or lesser degrees of affluence on crumbs of dry land.  If all of it were ending together I think it might be easier to bear.  But the idea of being gone and missing out seems almost too great a weight to bear.
But these are the vanities of the living.  And some of that vanity tarnishes and is stripped away in the exhausting process of living.  The man in the room I’m driving away from in a seaside down on the edge of a continent that is a small portion of our earth which is one planet of several in our solar system which apparently is a mere speck on the cosmic map itself, he didn’t seem to be too worried about what would be happening after he died.  His mind was already waiting for a bus to come and take him to see the brothers and sisters that had died before him.  His focus was on getting enough breath with the help of the oxygen tank connected to his nose by a frail, nearly-invisible tube.  
If there was vanity being bruised and offended, he didn’t let on.  He just has a bus to catch, and that’s all he’s able to think about.

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