In loving memory: Detra MacDougall
In loving memory: Ken Flynn
Dear Grim Reaper:
It's me. One of the many who try to make art in your wake. I just want to grab you as you make you daily rounds to get a few things off my chest. Not that you've ever listened to anyone before. God knows, you're a stubborn, single-minded, nerd – such a perfectionist – that you won't stop working – even when your doctors urge you to chill out.
You're way busy. So I'll get right to the point. Don't take this the wrong way: but you reek. As my late father said in his will, "I wish I could have gone on living because life is...precious...and despite the ...books...telling me what it's all about, having made a judgement while living, death stinks."
Of course, though some folks have had near-death experiences, most of us mortals, don't know what it's like to experience you. Any more than we can remember what it was like to be in the womb. It seems that, you, our buddy, death, can offer peace...a respite from unbearable physical or emotional pain. But the suffering – the dying – is no picnic. Small wonder, pal: no matter how much relief – how much serenity – you have up your sleeve – you're always the most unpopular kid on the block. You're the enemy we refuse to love as ourselves. The chess master we can"t beat.
Still, we give you a good run for your money. Love and art are our running shoes. It's an endless race with the odds stacked in your favor. Yet, your crazed allegiance to your work has blinkered your steely eyes. You can't see that the terrifying knowledge that we must die, gives meaning as well as horror to our lives.
Knowing that we're here for only a short while makes us get off our tush. Take myself. If I were going to be around forever, I'd procrastinate forever. I wouldn't pay bills or wash my clothes, let alone fall in love or write a poem. I'd be perpetually looking for Ms. Right and turning away from the blank page. I'm not just talking about Cupid brandishing his arrow. Would we love our friends, our families, our work or even, ourselves, if you weren't lurking behind every keyhole? Would we artists be as devoted – as disciplined to our muse and to our art, if you weren't there to goad us? And while we would suffer so much less, if you weren't around, what meaning would life have? Would it be precious if it was ever-lasting? Would we be fully alive, if you weren't here to make us ask the big questions around love and death?
Don't get puffed up. You still stink. Dying is hard and mourning tears at our hearts more than we could ever say. Yet, you push us to defy you – to love and to make art. The race is stacked, but we keep running.
From one of the lesser mortals,