Here’s a short series where I take creative approach to engaging with death.
Good morning Death, come join me for a cup of coffee. I’ve noticed you hanging around most mornings.
“Good morning Juan, can I call you Juan?”
Yes of course, get comfortable, how do you like… never mind I can guess, black no sugar.
“Am I that obvious? But yes, black. Although I do like pumpkin spice from time to time, it’s such a maligned flavor.”
I have to ask you. Where’s the hooded cloak and scythe?
“Oh, really? Can you be so obtuse. Thats such an archaic visage, created by superstition to generate fear. I actually preffer to appear as a family member that has passed. I’m not a cruel being, I actually care.”
I never thought of it like that, how’s the coffee?
“Good, what is it?”
Folgers… nothing fancy.
So, I have a question…”Yes I know, how can you see me?”
Um… that’s not creepy!?
“Well I am a supernatural being” he says with a practiced grin and perfect pearly whites.
I take a long sip of my coffee, closing my eyes to savor the warmth. When I open my eyes, Death is gone and the morning news drones on in the background.
I am strangely calm and the coffee tastes really good, hmm…
“Good morning Juan”
I’m startled awake, it appears I dozed off while drinking my coffee. Good morning, as I stretch…
“Sorry to wake you, I wouldn’t have, but I’m enjoying our morning convo’s.”
Thats ok, I am also, how about a… oh, I see you helped yourself.
Hey, Ive been meaning to ask you, how is it I can see you?
“Well, lets see if I can help you understand. The existence I lead can and is very solitary. From time to time I connect with individuals. Sometimes it does not go well. In fact I regret to say, I have irrevocably damaged lives. I regret those instances.”
I can imagine, some folks can’t handle your presence.
However some, like yourself, for some reason are not adversely affected. I enjoy these encounters.”
Ok, so you didn’t make me lose my mind. But, not to be a cliche, why me?
“It’s rather simple, to be totally honest. You have come to terms with your mortality. You have accepted that you will die regardless of your condition or circumstances. You have chosen to live in spite of dying. So many individuals exist without actually living. For whatever reason you do not fear dying.”
I’m not sure that’s entirely true. There are so many living with similar adversity, what makes me special?
“Oh, your not special, all individuals have this capacity. I just felt, from experience, I could approach you.”
Well, I for one appreciate your sollitude. ALS can be lonely, slowly isolation happens. Its no ones fault, just a side effect of the decreased physical engagement.
I take a sipp of my coffee, when I look up… yep he’s gone.
Good morning, how are you today?
Buenos dias Mijo, un cafesito por favor.
I hadn’t looked over to where death was sitting, I just felt him there. So when I heard him speak, it brought back a flood of memories. I hadn’t heard that voice since I was a child…
Welito Juan!? My namesake… my grandfather.
Ok, your not playing fair, this is difficult; as a flood of emotions come over me.
“Si, lo se, pero te dije que prefiero presentarme como un querido difunto.”
Como te hemos extrañado…
“Lo se Juanito, pero tienes que entender, no soy tu abuelo, simplemente aparecido.”
At this point my Welito starts dunking something into his coffee, what is that, I ask?
“Mis favoritas, las galletitas Nutter Butter.”
It hits me and I can’t contain myself. Memories of trying to steal his nutter butters as kids come crashing like waves. Ultimately he always shared with us, he with coffee and we would get a tall glass of milk.
Six feet tall with silver hair, his smile would reveal his front crooked teeth, and he always had a smile for his grandkids.
I come to my senses momentarily, I ask, ok since your not really him, can you drop the Spanish?
“Yes, of course. How are you today?”
Well after that, I need a moment, I just didn’t expect it.
How’s your coffee today?
“Very rich and smooth, did you do something different? “
Added a pinch of salt to the grounds.
“Hmm, just a pinch, its good.”
So I have a question…, how is it that I can see you?
I turn abruptly toward our hallway, one of the boys is up. Turning back to my guest I notice Welito is gone. I’m not surprised. I look out to the back yard. Its a foggy drizzly day, how appropriate…
Love and miss you Welito.
Morning Coffee 4
I roll into the kitchen, raise my chair and turn on the lights.
Im startled but not surprised, Death is at the kitchen table, chair turned toward me. I roll over to join him for our morning coffee. The whole time, mesmerized by who he has chosen to appear as today.
Jan, my father in law. Meg Jankowski Reyes dad. I sit in silence and just stare.
“Good morning Juan”,
that same raspy voice and those squinty eyes. Jan’s eyelids were always heavy, giving the appearance of him squinting. He’s got that big grin. He is sitting in typical fashion, legs crossed elbow on his knee, rail thin as always. How I miss this old man…
“I made you a cup. Sorry I didn’t join you yesterday, too busy.”
That’s quite all right, it was a good day, 6 year anniversary of our adoption. You would have loved our kids and they you.
They would have loved your stories, you had such an interesting life, not always easy, but good overall.
“Jan definitely left an impression; remember I’m not him, I just look like him.”
I know, I know, but the emotions and memories can be overwhelming. The way your sitting, exactly as he would. Meg and I would drive up to their house and find Jan sitting on the steps; cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other.
One of my fondest memories is playing Trivial Pursuit with him. We could never beat him!
Second fondest would be how he started every story. Middle finger waving at you followed by ” Let me tel it to you this way”…
“I’m sorry, if its too hard for you, I can be someone else?”
No its ok, although as whacked as this experience is, its strangely comforting.
“Good, I hoped you would see it this way. Well I’ve got to be off.”
Ok, until next time… thanks for the coffee.