Tag Archives: death

Speeding Toward A Surprise Ending

Speeding Toward A Surprise Ending



Thinking overly, fantasizing about one’s demise might be considered sick and wrong.  We will, however, all meet our demise at some point, so I feel it’s appropriate to consider it from time to time.  Unless we can overcome it.  And wouldn’t that take a miracle?  That could require becoming an Avatar.  Maybe it might even be a possibility if we aren’t addicted to, or insistent upon, lugging our current form with us.  These are the streams of consciousness one might drift in while, or after, witnessing someone else’s demise. This is a sea of imagination one might bob in when faced with the uncertainties of living.  Well, at least it’s an eddy I’ve found myself swirling around in from time to time and more often lately.

And these are also the kinds thoughts one might indulge in while, or after, watching the Nightly News, with it’s sensational tales of death, destruction and endless demise. For instance; consider earthquakes and tsunamis, this weekend’s magnetic super moon pull on the tides and earth and the fluids in our brains, or the unsavory information regarding HAARP, or the lack of potassium iodide on the shelves here the pacific northwest, which we wouldn’t care about except for the nuclear whiffs coming in from Japan, or the economic meltdown, which is itself a rolling blackout for many all over the world, or another troublesome US meddling in the middle east, or say, an uneasy personal medical report or how about a ‘dreaded’ diagnosis.  I’m talking thoughts about the kinds of things that can change everything at a moment’s notice.

This is the kind of roiling turmoil that might make contemplating a Thelma & Louise moment attractive unless one over thinks the ending.  To contemplate this with any success, you need a car and an ability to embrace a twist of fate or two.   And it helps to have a taste for whiskey.  If one has a really nice car like I do, then one feels more than just slightly remiss and wasteful in imagining it careening off a cliff.  It’s in good shape with low miles and has not taken the road trips that it was meant for at the purchasing.  I have been thinking about cliffs I could careen my car off without scratching it on the way down.  They’re difficult to find in everyday life.  Then there is the issue of the messy and irresponsible carbon footprint of toxic fluids, plastic and metal left in the wreckage at the bottom of the crevasse, not to mention bits of re-usable body parts and spilled plasma.  How could I have anything but remorse about leaving a premeditated ecological anti-ideological legacy like that in my wake?  I can’t.

Still, I like the idea of deciding when and how I might say adios y hasta luego in my own chosen moment rather than some scenarios that I have intimately witnessed in recent times and still others that cross my mind when I watch CNN.  It’s not that I think about all this very often.  But sometimes I do.  Sometimes I like to.  I’ve always been partial to freedom of choice.

I may be more of a Thelma than a Louise, but I have lived a little Louise as well and am not remotely interested in that again.  So what would Thelma do if she’d had more enlightenment, more concern for the common global good, and still planned to careen toward her demise with panache?  Channeling Thelma, weaving certain aspects of her thought processes into mine, provides me with another context in which to give this strange Life and also it’s demise, a fresh look-over. How does Life’s demise look from this beautiful interesting and awkward angle?

Well, because of the issues of the nice car and it’s viable re-sale value, the carbon imprint nuisance, the bit of enlightenment and the issues around the common global good I possess and must contend with, coupled with the fact that I’m not partial to Wild Turkey, I have decided to abandon my Thelma and Louise option of demise and turn my attention instead toward The Never Ending Story. Once over a cliff, it’s over.  Questing, activism and mysteries, even if apocalyptic, appeal to me more.


I may have been fortunate to have inherited a flair for optimism, fascination and amusement from that man who thought he couldn’t die but did, Jack Wood.  Of course, he loved whisky.  And cars.  Driving them fast.  Plus he scoffed at the virtues of organics or the importance of recycling, so I doubt leaving a carbon imprint would have bothered him much.  He lived large but  in the end, boxed himself into a corner in front of a giant TV screen, unable to get to his car, abandoned in the garage. He didn’t leave himself much option to choose his ultimate demise.  But then I guess one way or another, we are all speeding toward a surprise ending.

My Mother’s Pearls

Those pearls I gave my mom for one of her birthdays were such “an extravagant” gift, she thought they belonged in the red satin box they arrived in.  She would concede to wear them only for very special occasions.


I begged her to wear them every day if she felt like it.  She couldn’t imagine that.  I finally confessed to her that her perception of extravagance was…well…in the case of those pearls…misperceived.  I had a friend, who at that time was a flight attendant, flying to Beijing, with the opportunity to shop at the night market.  She brought back beautiful real pearls and knock-off’s of everything else twice a month.  Mom’s pearls were not the unbelievable extravagance she imagined they were.  I happily bought them for her, and a strand for myself, and earrings, and bracelets and all kinds of things via the Beijing night market.  I liked them, but they didn’t mean that much to me.  They meant luxury and extravagance to mom and they were special.


It took some time, but she was finally convinced to wear her pearls with more regularity.  Then she died.  Suddenly.  She died and it took my siblings and I many many wrenching months to go through her house and decide what to do with her things.  I took the pearls in the red satin box home with me.  I rarely wore my own pearls but I began to wear mom’s.  They never saw the inside of that red satin box again.  I wore them with sweats to work out in, with jeans, in the shower and to bed.  I wore them all the time for months.  I thought of her everyday while I wore her pearls.


Later in that year that she died, I was dressing to meet friends in Seattle for dinner.  It was early winter and bitter cold.  I decided to wear a yellow cashmere sweater my mom always admired, though I never really cared much for it.  But it was cozy and warm and made me think of her so I slipped on the pearls as well.  I loved the way it felt to wear them and I loved to tangle my fingers in them, being a natural born hair twizzler like she was, like my sisters and daughter are.


In the middle of a lively conversation at dinner, I absently reached to twirl mom’s pearls and discovered that they were gone!  I’d never had occasion to unclasp them before because the strand was long enough to slip over my head.  I looked everywhere, retraced all my steps, enlisted my friends in the search.  No pearls anywhere.  I was devastated.  I drove home in tears and shock, my heart broken, feeling almost the same as if I were suddenly losing my mom all over again.  The pearls never turned up.  Eventually, I  accepted that they were gone forever and hoped that whoever found them would wear them every day.  I put my own pearls in the red satin box and never wore them again.


On Christmas Eve two years later, as I was dressing to go to a party, I thought about mom’s pearls and missed her, wished I could wear them and feel her.  I decided I would wear mine and opened the red satin box for the first time in two years.  Empty!  I stared at that box in disbelief and stunned confusion.  The submerged sense of loss that had dissipated with time, welled up inside of me again and I sat on my bed and cried until I was spent.


Finally, resigned, I approached my dresser to retrieve my pearl earrings out of the jumbled tangle of bracelets and necklaces in my jewelry box.  I opened the box and there were my pearls, part of the tangle.  What a relief to slowly realize that I must have simply forgotten that I put them there.  I picked them up to put them on.


Hanging in a loop from my string of pearls were mom’s, clasped in tact, held together, as if they were linked arm and arm, as if they were meant to be together, as if no explanation were necessary.  What could possibly be the explanation for something like that?  I felt my Mama’s sweet presence acutely and my knees buckled.  An extravagant rush of gratitude washed over me, and I began to cry all over again, despair replaced with intense joy and wonder at life’s delicate mysteries.


I wore both strands together that night and the next, the pleasure of them hanging together around my neck and over my heart was delectable.  I never suspected in the midst of the music, feast and toasts, all the gaiety of those holiday parties, that it would be the last Christmas I was to share with my dad and my brother alive.


Life and death are so strange, so bittersweet. Life can seem so temporary and death so final.  But is that really true?  What is real and constant for me is the presence of mystery in them both, the challenge to make some kind of sense of their experiences and stories.  I love that.  I’m wearing my mother’s pearls.