The subject of death and dying (or should I say dying and death) has been on my mind a lot lately. It is very uncomfortable. I think this is because of the way I am currently defining death: a large and devastating LOSS.
And while I KNOW we all have to face death (our own and/or those we love) at some point, I generally prefer to distract myself with daily living to do’s. I mean why dwell when there is Tasmanian devil cleaning, half assed cooking (when I HAVE to do that dreadful task), money making and my favorite every present, mind numbing task: laundry!
On that note, I would like to say that ‘death and taxes’ should instead be ‘death and laundry’, laundry being the easier of the two certainties to understand: dirty laundry in, clean laundry out, dirty laundry in, gripe, repeat, every single f’ing day. It’s a perfect means in which to avoid trying to answer the scary question of us mere mortals: “what happens next?” I’ll TELL you what happens next my good people: I will fold another damn load of laundry.
Oh! The things I have discovered while doing laundry: items shaken from hiding during the spin cycle, bursting with proof that I live with (and love unconditionally) seven unique and interesting people. There is often money: nickels, dimes, pennies and when I am lucky quarters or greenery, all mine for the taking. It is written in the laundry doer’s handbook that it is acceptable protocol to keep laundered money as payment for services rendered.
But I have also discovered special rocks; shells; worms; pocket knives; combs; Nerf gun ammo; lip gloss; letters that were passed around in class, folded fourteen times over, exposing who likes who, or who no longer does.
Once I washed an unopened bottle of blue Gatorade.
Wallets have come through many times. It’s against protocol to take (all of) the money from laundered wallets, but okay to explore their content, which is necessary in the dry out process. It is difficult to collect all of the once contained by a pocket b-b’s; shotgun shells are not so difficult. Play-dough; crayons; ink pens; white out; a bottle of Elmer’s glue; half eaten candy bars: they can wreak havoc upon clothing, especially in the dryer phase. A grasshopper: was it alive before I washed it? Bobby-pins; earrings; spoons and forks (better left in one’s pocket than on the couch); rubber bands; toothbrushes; army guys; plastic snakes that still startle me as do the spiders, which are only sometimes plastic.
I had never seen an athletic cup before I had boys: now they come regularly through the laundry in several colors and sizes, their presence made known by gloriously loud dryer thumping. Nothing grosses me out anymore…not even barfed on sheets or poopy underwear, though both are becoming less and less of an occurrence. IPods; IPhones; cans of chew: they tell of the aging going on in my household. Less and less do I wash the littlest one’s blanket: his “me-me” doesn’t get as dirty these days.
The highly revered ($20 per pair) athletic socks purchased by oldest brother for two younger brothers who needed luck and good socks for basketball games and the ratty shirts my husband wears because he says there are more important priorities to invest in, speak of the great giving that happens in a big family.
The favorite t-shirts, sweatshirts and jeans that smell of dirt, and grass and hard core play or perfume depending upon the wearer bless me with the aura of my people.
And oh GOD to ever lose these people: unthinkable!
Because I have always thought of death as a loss, which is hard not to do because of all the rich love in the damn laundry.
I have a very dear friend who is dying. At a much more rapid pace than most of us are. Wrapped in the sorrowful question of “how will I live without her?” for several days, I became heavy and lethargic with thick, tangible pain, unable to lift my arms, and then guilty for focusing on my own feelings. And then kind of mad at her for causing me such despair, and then even more guilty, because it’s not like she WANTS to make anyone feel bad. In fact she will probably go out saying something wicked funny, for all of our sakes because that is how she is.
But here’s the thing. I can’t help but notice the children within this cloudy sorrow surrounding all of us adults who are trying to get our minds wrapped around the idea of losing our friend. The children: they still giggle, they still whine about homework or their brother poking and buzzing at them like a chainsaw, they still act obnoxiously when adults are trying to talk about serious things. They are sad yes, but it does not STAY with them as it can with us adults. My littlest, who adores our friend as much as any of us, when told that the medicine wasn’t working, that she was getting much, much sicker, cried hard and loud, spent 20 minutes drawing a picture for her, deep meditative, tongue out of mouth coloring, and then went to play, shedding the sorrow for better things like beating his brother at basketball.
We think: oh the children simply don’t get it. They can’t comprehend death. It’s too hard for them. They are too young.
But maybe they get it better than we do.
Now hear me out, because while I am NO theologian, nor am I someone who has lived a life with the absolute conviction that there is a clear cut path or WAY of living life that will assure eternal life or heaven any more or less than another path, and while I have no CLEAR understanding of “what happens next” I feel like there is something very powerful to express here that is as clear as day to me. I have used the word clear four times in this paragraph because I want to dwell on this brief moment of clarity.
You see, when I finally allowed myself a reprieve from the sorrow over what feels like great LOSS I was able to lift my arms again. In shedding the weighted veil of dark sadness, joy was uncovered: a bright, warm, deep KNOWING that is hard wired into all of us.
Sorrow, rarely contains the hearts of most of our children, at least for very long, because they have not grown as far away from their true and joyful form as we adults have. And even we, often broken, disconnected, devastated people, are unable to dwell in sad for very long because we are made for and connected to love. It is WHAT we are, and because it is infinite, it can not contain loss.
The sorrow, the sad, the despair, it comes because we can’t completely comprehend the infinite capacity of love that is our eternal existence. But we know, from the soft whispers in our hearts, that we will.
We can call it death I suppose, but if it is anything like laundry, well…I can live with that for ever.