This I Believe—
I believe my life has entered a sort of “season of the witch” as Donovan called it. But I also believe that I can pull out some meaning from all the deaths I have personally endured since 2001. On 9/11 my parents were still alive. I called them as we all watched those devil’s plumes of smoke and fire as they might have watched a tornado descend on their Arkansas farm—helplessly.
By February 22, 2002 my father was dead of natural causes—none of them related to 9/ll, but for me even more calamitous. He was a kind, wise man, father to seven, husband of 62 years to my mother, a gentle, quiet woman. Then, my mother died on my birthday last year, April 23, 2006—or, as my sisters claim, saying she loved me this much, five minutes after. She died mainly of the bad heart that had already killed her entire family of origin. Each of my parents was 82 when they left this earth—not unexpectedly. Every time my sisters and brother and I visited them as their world shrank from farm to town home to assisted living, we cherished them and they us—making the inevitable nearly understandable.
In the next two years, my two eighteen-year-old cats died—neither suffered unduly, I think, I hope, I pray. But they were my son’s first companions and he and I sang them out, buried them in the garden, and mourned them as they deserved. I was moving on by then—looking forward to a Parisian trip. I was not eddying as one has a right to do right after the gravity of death hits close by.
Then, my 50 year old only brother Marx died of a heart attack Feb. 28 of this year. And this I believe—he came to my bedside. I, an agnostic at best—and I can say this now freely since it can no longer hurt my mother, who, toward the end, used to write me pleading letters to start attending a “full Bible church.” Nor was my brother a church-goer, though he told me once that he had been reading about near-death experiences and said he was no longer afraid to die. But then he did.
The next morning—100 miles away—I awoke at 4:00, filled with dread– and saw a Marx-shaped figure at my bedside. In the next few days, my sister Donna called to say she had been finding dimes in unusual places. My brother had been NovlDime, host in a popular Internet chat-room. Donna is not traditionally religious either, but this she believed: he was pranking her, announcing his existence. I remembered that our mother had claimed a similar visitation by her mother in the guise of a mockingbird. But my mother was a believer. Now, I believe the dead get a quick reprieve in order to comfort us and then go somewhere else—that there is an invisible pattern that I can not stand to understand. I must only believe—and go on.
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