November 22, 2015

Dying with Sun Gold All Over the Floor: How to Have a Good Death.

shadow sunset gold

I lay in bed in the mornings and look out the glass door at that old mesquite tree that grows in our yard. It’s probably been there for a century.

At certain times of the year, at just about 7:00 in the morning, when the sun is at a particular angle, she turns the leaves on the mesquite tree to gold. I watch as, leaf by leaf, the sun does her work and I see the leaves become so heavy with gold that it drips off the leaves down onto the patio where it pools and begins to make its way to the door.

“When the gold comes under the door,” I think, “that is when I will die.”

“Pray for a good death,” the nuns always said. I can still hear them. Of course I didn’t know what they were talking about then. I’d think, “Who has to worry about death when you’re only 16?”

I know a woman who had a good death.

She died in her bed, in her own home in her own bedroom with her husband holding vigil while sitting next to her on a stool.

“I had to get a stool,” he said. “I was afraid I’d fall asleep if I had a chair.”

But he didn’t fall asleep. Not until she had her last breath. Not until they took her out of the house. Not until the entire room had filled up with the sun gold that had dripped off the tree’s leaves and come under the door and covered the floor.

There are many deaths that aren’t like that.

There are deaths that have blood all over the floor, or pain all over the floor, or the sounds of gunshots, or of automobiles crashing, or of water in your lungs or even of blue lights blinking on a heart monitor that is standing on a cold, absolutely spotless hospital floor.

I see those deaths and I want to take my stool and sit by them and paint them with the sun’s brush. I want to paint every place of them, every cafe, every theater, every school, every single place of them with the sun’s gold.

Laying in bed, in the middle of the night, I hear the doctor’s words. “This can kill you,” he said to me, and my heart is gripped with fear. I’d have pain that I’d never had before and my mind would say, “This can kill you,” and my body would ache all the more and I’d start to lose my mind a little bit.

That is when I remembered to pray for what the nuns taught me to pray for.

That is when I prayed for a good death and when, in the shadows of the night, I would look over and almost see him there, my one, keeping vigil on his stool so he wouldn’t fall asleep.

I’d see him looking at me and I’d see myself dying, in my own bed, in my own room, in my own house.

And there would be sun gold all over the floor.


Relephant Favorite:

Why We should Never be Afraid of Death.


Author: Carmelene Siani

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Flickr/Michael Slonecker

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