Over the weekend, I watched Good Will Hunting. No, I’ve never seen the movie before even though it was released in 1997. That was the year I was working 40 hours a week at a garden centre, giving birth to my first child and settling into a new house, so I didn’t watch much of anything.
Throughout the movie, I was waiting for the inevitable. I say inevitable because many of the books I’ve read and the movies I’ve watched the past 20 years have used death to jolt the main character out of their ‘destructive’ daze and into change for the better. I’ve seen it so many times, I can often pick which character will be sacrificed for the good of character development. If it’s a character I’ve invested emotion in, I pull back before the death, knowing it’s coming. If I’m unaware, it feels like a betrayal by the writer.
One of my genealogy columns published over the summer was titled There’s No Guarantee in Life or Death. It’s about wills and estates, something I’ve been thinking about a lot in the past six months because my mom is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. I’m thinking about my final wishes more than hers (hers are taken care of) and wondering what mess I might leave my kids to sort through. I’m also wondering about the things I value, such as my genealogy research and the books I’ve written, and who would appreciate them most.
“In these days where diseases, such as dementia, are on the rise, I believe it is less likely the well-thought out plan for estates will be executed.”
Why? Because a person’s ability to control their affairs and stuff while they’re still alive becomes almost impossible when diseases of the brain take hold. This leaves control of their stuff with those they live with or those, family or friends, who enter their home to see to their daily needs.
I can only imagine the vast majority who walked the trails of Earth have asked this question at least once in their life. Yet there seems to be no real answer found.
Should we greet death with open arms or run from it as fast as our feet will carry us? Should we fear it or rejoice? People throughout the centuries have done all these and more.
But what is death?
Is it simply the death of the host body we call Earthling? Or does something more tragic happen? Do our souls die, cease to exist and do our screens go black?
More than a dozen years ago, my sister and I were driving on the highway. She mentioned that she feared death because there was nothing there. It all just ended in nothing. I asked her, “How do you know it ends and there is nothing there but nothing?”
You died on a warm, windless, sunny winter’s day, a day boxed between a blizzard and the promise of thirty centimetres more in snow. A black bird sang a solitary song on a birch branch nearby. Three crows watched atop one of the great evergreens lining the garden. The donkey peeked around its shelter, looking forlornly towards your bed. The occasional rooster call echoed across the frozen ground, and the cloudless sky swathed the earth in a bright blue canopy.
If there was a peaceful day to die, this day, a breath away from spring, was a good day. The sun shined down on you, making your coat warm and cosy as you lay in the hay. Your barn mate walked around you, checking you or perhaps saying goodbye, one more time. No more would you both ram heads together in play, in challenge or in silliness.
Huge mounds of snow surrounded us, cradled us as we waited, for it did seem we simply waited: waited for the last breath, the last heartbeat, the last goodbye song by the bird, feathers glistening in the morning sun.
I mentioned in a previous post that while looking for the draft of a western novel I had written more than a dozen years ago that I had found my Reflections duotang from Grade 12. At school in Cole Harbour, we began writing weekly reflections/essays/stories in grade 10. It was a simple assignment: fill one page of looseleaf with writing. It could be on anything. Heck, it could be a letter to your ex-boyfriend telling him what clown he was.
The objective was simply to write. For me, that was the easiest ten points on my term mark I could get. Often, I didn’t fill one page; I filled two or three or five.
After reading a few Reflections, I realised my thought process hasn’t changed much. On the outside I may look a little different and my daily activities have completely changed, but on the inside, I’m still the same person.
Below is the first entry. It’s appropriate since I’m a dreamer more than anything else in the world.
I Was, I Think
Many people dream. I am one who dreams many. A lot of people try and come up with reasons why people have dreams and what they all mean. What I think is that dreams are like subconscious videos of your life in the past or it could be of the future.
There is a saying called déjà vu. This could simply be explained by someone having a dream and not remembering it in the morning and then when they have done what they had done in the dream they remember doing something like that before.
I believe that a person’s body dies but not their soul. The soul lives on in other bodies throughout the years.
When I dream I never see myself. I always see other people but not myself. I talked with my sister about this and we wondered if we looked different in our dreams. I wondered about this for a long time and then one dream I looked in the mirror and through the eyes of me I saw someone else. It was either a dream from the future or from the past. I could not really tell. But from what I figured in your dreams you are looking out of a different body.
Some people, in my dreams are familiar to me. At least they seem familiar. Only a few times do I dream with people I know in them. It is usually people I have never seen for a long time or someone who I had just recently met. People who I do not know in my dreams from reality I know in my dream. They can be brothers, or sisters or best friends in the dream which gives you a weird feeling when you wake up because you know that you know that person and you’re not going to meet him or her in real life.
…I still remember the dream in which I looked into an oval hall mirror and saw another face staring back at me. I had initially passed the mirror and was on my way down the hall when I realised I should look into it and see my appearance. For some reason, my awake hours spent thinking about what I looked like in dreams gave me the ability to intentionally stop and look into that mirror.
Have you ever seen yourself in a mirror in your dreams?