Well, I’m on a tear here with these old people. This morning I spoke with a friend whose mother just died earlier this month. She was 89. “She lived until she died,” he said, which meant that on a Tuesday she went to the assisted living cafeteria where she and her friend June served lunch, as volunteers. Ten days later on a Thursday she was dead. The story in between was one of cancer discovered, hospice care; children summoned and present at her last breath. There was no conflict really; again she was a lucky one.
“When people are that old they live on such a fragile edge,” my friend Trudy said as we were ruminating together about this. Her mother died last year, aged 90 in similarly lucky circumstances–as comfortably as could ever be hoped for, surrounded by her offspring’s love and care.
Looking back at death through the lens of its mystery–it stuns my mind. What does my ‘self’ mean given that it can disappear like that? And never be seen again!? It seems pretty clear to me–there is no ‘where’ that a person goes.
Then what does it mean to be here in the first place? Even the universe will die at some point. That doesn’t mean that nothing matters, it makes it feel like everything matters, that there’s no time I want to waste. Not that I can get out of certain futile seeming chores like putting away laundry, my least favorite. But what’s the alternative?
The postcard my friend Cathy treasures of graffiti in a French village:
Next part of this theme is my car. My car is reaching an elderly status. In March I spent $2,000 on a new oil pan. Now when I came home from summer travels it was making a new farting like noise. I took it to Al–of ABJ Auto in Somerville–he’s my best friend lately. I adore Al and his saintly, compassionate, bemused approach to everyone who comes into his shop. I’ve spent many hours in Al’s waiting room and he’s a healer of sorts, soft spoken and kind and honest. Well, I sat with Al and listened to Claude, one of Al’s employees, singing what sounded like opera or the bass part in a religious chorale under Claude’s breath.
Meanwhile the other mechanics told me what I suspected, that the car needed something done to the exhaust system. They hoisted it up to see what part was gone and noticed that it also needs a new — axle.
The car’s literally falling apart. I guess 12 is pretty old for a car. Unlike a body, I can get new parts (or rather, new used parts or new parts that are sort of like the manufacturer’s originals but cheaper) for a car. All it costs is money and that precious commodity, time.
It seems clear that I should buy a new car, much as I love Al. But I don’t love any car other than mine. And a new one costs money in chunk-style rather than periodic bleeds.
What the Buddha said at 80. “My body is like an old cart held together with straps.” He only stopped feeling physical aches and pains when he went into a state of concentrated absorption.