I sometimes remember the small birds, agile as bats, flitting across the waves so very far from shore. They seemed small enough to nest in the palm of my hand with fingers curled, their wild hearts hammering against my finger tips. In the sudden darkness of the tropics, a darkness that descends without grace, their dark bodies were silhouetted for the briefest instant against the white of breaking waves. They were a flock, wheeling and darting among the waves. They seemed too fragile to survive such immensity. Where did they sleep in a storm?
My neighbor is dying. He asked me to witness his will. I’ve never been invited into his house before; now I’ve watched him put his signature on the disposition of everything he owns. It won’t be long—a year or two—before his will is executed. We’re all dying, of course, but the consensus of medical opinion is that my neighbor has a schedule to keep.
There is a scene from The Unforgiven when William Munny, a man expert at killing, describes to a dime novelist the meaning of death. “You take away everything a man’s got, and everything he’s ever going to have.”
I don’t mean to be maudlin. Years ago Monsanto used the tag line: “Life would be impossible without chemicals.” It would also be impossible without death. But sometimes I think we’re much like those small birds a thousand miles from shore, skirting the edge of a storm.