Pondering the avoidance of an untimely reaping

When Princess Diana died, mourners outside Buckingham Palace left flowers piled high enough to be seen from space, or so my fake news feed tells me.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, (that’s one ‘Queen’ more than the one who actually sits on the throne, if anybody’s counting) was not quite so beloved of paparazzi, though it’s said the BBC was so concerned about giving her the proper send-off they prepared and held drills decades in advance of her demise. Who knew she’d outlive Lady Di, going on to straddle the entire 20th century?

Apologies in advance if you’ve been recently wounded, but this column concerns death, which I’ve been thinking about lately. Call it my blue period.

I’ve even taken to reading the obits, a habit you’re not supposed to acquire until closer to your three score and 10. Tiffin seems to have a good supply of Methuselahs giving the incumbent Elizabeth (so many Elizabeths over here) a run for her money. Is there something in the water?

I’ve been lucky in life so far. The Grim Reaper hasn’t collected anybody I’ve been close to or loved. They’re all still present and accounted for. I don’t know many people who’ve made it to their middle ages so unscathed.

Were I superstitious, this would be a good time to find a large piece of wood to knock on. The 300-year-old oak that held court in front of our house would be a suitable candidate if an almighty wind hadn’t recently brought it down. I’m left pondering its ancient corpse, already sectioned by a tree surgeon but left to bleach in the sun.

Frankly, I’m in wonderment at having made it this far myself. On a few occasions, I’ve taken Jack Kerouac too literally and found myself laid out on the road after an accident, consciousness thankfully returned.

It’s bad enough losing yourself. The thought of losing others is more painful still.

Fortunately (or not, from my DNA’s point of view), I don’t have children, so never faced the possible horror of that loss.

There is a little heart I fear stops beating, that of the impossibly dear rabbit who shares the house with us. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say I’d rather go before him, which hopefully would make him a very long-lived long ears indeed. It’s amazing what pets can do to you.

Childhood dogs and cats and such typically are the unwitting instructors on how to process grief before you’re old enough to read Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. It’s a lesson I haven’t learned.

Often when I come to Tiffin I wander over to the cemetery a stone’s throw from where I grew up — on a dead end, of course — and pay a visit to a classmate.

My earliest memory of Leslie was when we were in a play together at a school that also no longer exists. Looking delicate and lovely in her yearbook picture, I’m amazed I didn’t fall for her, but we were just friends, till even friendship passed away for some obscure reason.

Leslie died at the age of 24, around the time I was getting married. We’d last run into each other quite by accident on a chilly winter’s day on the quad at Bowling Green State University, where I remember her telling me about a trip to England. A few years later, I was shocked to find out she’d exited stage left.

She since has become my guide to the underworld, as it were: those dark mental caverns where I sit in full Rodin’s Thinker mode contemplating my own time on earth. Her long afterlife haunts me and reminds me not to take breathing for granted.

Then there’s William. I don’t know where his grave is to visit, but we never actually met in life, unless Facebook counts. William sticks in my mind because he was an essayist who often touched upon his own mortality. He died after going I don’t know how many rounds with cancer. It’s often said writers live on through their words, so he continues to cheat death: see prettygoodbritain.com/bradley.html.

Death be not proud, wrote Johnny Gunther’s father to generations of school kids and metaphysical Elizabethan John Donne to eternity. Appetizer for last supper conversation though that may be, I’ll leave the final words to a barnyard animal who knew how to wrap things up: Th-th-th-that’s all, folks.

Scott Munn is a former Tiffin resident who has lived in England for 21 years.

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