Recently a friend died.
In his prime.
Sudden death shocks us. It takes us by surprise.
In its wake we contemplate mortality, mostly our own.
We speculate on what comes after.
We tell ourselves stories, we reiterate our beliefs.
We comfort ourselves.
But we cannot Know what lies across the threshold.
No one can, until they go themselves.
All the way, without coming back.
And they can’t tell.
An unexpected and quick death can be a lucky card.
The winner in an often bad deck, filled with bad, sad and ugly. Just for starters.
Death has one constant. All things succumb.
Death, as they say, is the great equalizer.
My friend was lucky.
He died quickly, in his prime.
In a house he loved. Surrounded by his acres of trees, native animals and birdsongs.
In an octagonal space, with wide expanses of glass.
A mud brick oven and open fire at its heart.
Built with recycled materials.
With his own hands, sometimes in the jovial company of friends.
A huge slab of polished wood made the kitchen table.
He hewed that wood with a good friend, using the old logging rig in the yard.
A still wet oil painting sat on the easel.
He’d named it ‘Sailing Away’.
A little sailboat with big red, wind-filled sails, heading towards the horizon.
A boat in its prime.
Heading into the unknown.
A small alcove made a good music room.
An old stereo, big record collection, guitars, a borrowed keyboard and his treasured violin.
A man enraptured by melody and sound.
A friend had just written him a song.
About him sailing away (no knowledge of the painting), leaving the rest of us clods behind.
He talked of a trip to his boyhood home.
Down the south coast.
Wanted to take his woman. His companion. His soul-mate.
Kept saying he had, ‘a yearning to return’.
He went farther than anyone thought.
Depending on where we sit, death precedes a great adventure, spiritual fulfillment, or a dissolving into nirvana, into a state of perfect nothingness.
We can only speculate
But now Paulie knows
He went all the way, he’s not coming back.
So he can’t tell.