Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Fear of Dying

The other day at Cardio Therapy, one of the nurses, Mary, informed me that she had purchased the Kindle version of my poetry volume, Banned in Boston, and was quite taken with the poem, “How Death Will Come.” She confessed herself to be afraid of dying, which is an admission I find most people afraid to make. She cited in particular the lines: Elementary Fear/Lurking in my shadows/Every night when sleep/Brings its little deaths/And resurrections. She told me she had not thought of sleep like that, but it made her realize why many patients seem so afraid to sleep at night. I was thrilled, of course, partly that she had purchased my work, but mainly because she found something in my words that related to her world. Of what else can a writer dream? The time since I officially was covered by Medicare has been, to say the least, peculiar enough to find myself needing cardiac rehabilitation and thus encountering Nurse Mary, who shares my blatant fear of dying. Writing is therapy for me against that fear, as most of you already know. There is an old saying, whose origin I cannot remember. I always thought it was a pearl of Native American wisdom, but I suspect it is the kind of thought that has occurred to many and in many cultures. It goes, “You must confront your demons in order to defeat them.” I confront mine daily. She is not yet defeated; she is only postponed. My nephew Erik, inspired by my blog about the spark being missing, the Muse and the desire gone, told me they were gone in him as well. But did it matter? Did it really matter: in the grander scheme of things, the fact of life itself matters and gives the Muse her chance to return. But later we decided that the Muse is not really missing at all. We both have faced cardiac issues, although mine came on much later in life and, as far as I can tell, a much less severe situation. He has been relying on a pacemaker for a very long time and had triple bypass in 2013. All I had was a stent. But I could have died, and in that Erik and I share a common knowledge. I suggested to him that Death might actually be my Muse. And it doesn’t matter whether anyone else reads our words or understands where they come from: we write for ourselves, we confront our own demons, we dance with our Muse – we dance with Death, and she is great at keeping time. And that is, as they say, the heart of the matter.

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