Tag Archives: death

Onward and Upward

A few days ago I was discussing with a friend our futures. Would we ever get married? Be parents? Where would we be living in 10 years? It was a little disconcerting, considering my preference for planning my life in advance, that I didn’t exactly know what my future had in store for me.

I asked my much more laid-back friend, “Would you want to know exactly how your future is going to unfold?”

“Nahhh, I kind of like surprises,” was his response.

This threw me for a loop, because I would want to have a detailed itinerary emailed  to me every week. Knowing the minute details of my daily life would be something of a thrill for me. Being able to plan well in advance for situations would be a life saver! The orange juice commercials, where the consumer is sitting at the table with all of their “problems” for the day, is an obsessive compulsive planners fantasy.

I wondered if my friend was in the majority. Do most people want to keep an element of surprise in their day-to-day routine? How many people would choose to gaze into their future, if they found out the exact circumstances of their death? Perhaps that is the kicker, death. If you know when and how you’re going to die, you might live your life differently. I would assume that being privy to that sort of information might drastically change your personality and the way you interacted with people. This sort of information could be the reason that certain people would choose not to have their future unfolded before them.

As a planner, worrier and obsessive compulsive, however, I am practically frothing at the mouth for a chance to look into tea leaves and divine my future. I would ultimately hope the tea leaves showed something positive and in-line with how I anticipate my future will be. If everything goes according to plan, I would end up divining a future like:

2-3 years: married to the love of my life, work towards a 4 day work week, discussing adoption
4 years: completion of contracted work in California, quick sell of my current home, purchase a vacation home on Catalina Island, move back to NYC or Toronto,  begin renovation on the West Village building in NYC, begin the adoption process
5-6 years:  adopt a child/children (hopefully male twins), work towards a 2-3 day work week
7-8 years: complete the renovation on the West Village building, spend a year living abroad with my family, begin the transition to open my bakery (test recipes, research supply companies etc..)
9-10 years: begin consulting for hospitals 1-2 days a week, finally open my bakery, enjoy being a mother/wife/small business owner

An idyllic plan that will hopefully be put into action within the coming years!

Question(s): What about you? Would you choose to view your entire future if given the chance? Is there anything you wouldn’t want to know?

I am exact and merciless, but I love you

When I was still living in New York City, one of my uncles would always take me to McCarren Park to people watch. We would play games, eat mazurka and watch pick-up baseball games in the afternoon. Anytime he visited us in the city, he would spend the most amount of time with me. He didn’t speak a bit of Polish, but he was very patient with me. I taught him some basic phrases in Polish and he would help me with my ESL work. Even though he was in no way related to me, he always treated me like one of his own children and I enjoyed spending time with him.

The last time I was in NYC, I called him and we went to lunch in Greenpoint. It was nice to see him again, but he looked extremely tired. When it came time to order, he just asked for a salad and I knew something was definitely wrong. I asked him how he was feeling and he mentioned that he had not been given very good news during his last visit to the doctor. He went on to tell me that he was diagnosed with atherosclerosis on top of his diabetes. He had suffered two minor heart attacks since I had last seen him and his prognosis was not promising. I was upset at the thought of losing someone so dear to me and it was hard for me to leave him back in NYC.

A month ago, my aunt called me to let me know that my uncle was doing worse. He had also suffered a stroke and was having difficulties remembering basic things. Even though I had prepared myself and told myself that he could pass away at any time, hearing that his health had failed him even more was disheartening. I thought of my uncle, so vibrant in McCarren Park while we played tag. I remembered all the amazing times I had with him and it was hard to think that such a light would finally go out.

On September 6, I received the phone call that I had dreaded. My uncle had passed away, a heart attack early in the morning. Though it was not shocking news, it was news I didn’t want to hear so soon. It took awhile for it to sink in, I think mostly due to the distance between myself and my family. As I often do, I turned to books to find the words for how I was feeling. I came across a collection of Walt Whitman’s poems and searched for the one that I knew would help me more than any other.

Every time I lose someone close to me, it reminds me of Whitman’s “To One Shortly to Die,” which is one of my favourite poems. If you haven’t read it:

From all the rest I single out you, having a message for you,
You are to die—let others tell you what they please, I cannot
I am exact and merciless, but I love you—There is no escape for

Softly I lay my right hand upon you, you just feel it,
I do not argue, I bend my head close and half envelope it,
I sit quietly by, I remain faithful,
I am more than nurse, more than parent or neighbor,
I absolve you from all except yourself spiritual bodily, that is
eternal, you yourself will surely escape,
The corpse you will leave will be but excrementitious.

The sun bursts through in unlooked-for directions,
Strong thoughts fill you and confidence, you smile,
You forget you are sick, as I forget you are sick,
You do not see the medicines, you do not mind the weeping
friends, I am with you,
I exclude others from you, there is nothing to be commiserated,
I do not commiserate, I congratulate you.

This poem has always given me some form of comfort, the type of comfort that can only come from words. The nature of the poem, confronting the truth, head-on and then offering comfort after. It is the perfect poem for the solitude that one seeks after the death of someone you care about and it will, hopefully, offer me solace once again.