No Time Left to Waste

By | June 16, 2022
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No Time Left to Waste

One of life’s great blessings is that not one of us knows the exact day we will die. Well, at least I think so. I could not imagine being a teenager and knowing how many years I would live or the date of my death. That would take away the fun and great advantage of being young; the perception of being immortal. We have all experienced that.

None of us knows when our own dying day will be, and that’s a good thing, I think. You may disagree.

Being young is for looking down the road that never ends. When you’re young you can’t even see around the next bend let alone the end of the road. You certainly don’t know where and when that road will end – but then no matter how old you are – you don’t know when or where it will end. You just know the end of the road is a hell of a lot closer than it used to be. Better than to be young and think the road is infinitely long and death more like a scientific theory than a matter of fact.

Unfortunately, the shimmering optimism and smugness of my youth faded as I grew older; Death has become less of a concept and more of a reality – sometimes too real.

I must admit when this realization first visited me, I tried to brush it off as I would swat a gnat away from the back of my hand. But it was never that easy. I sometimes could put it out of my mind for hours, even days, but it was always there just swirling around somewhere in the dark elusive depths of my brain.

Another unfortunate fact is that I will keep getting older until death prevents me from having any more birthdays –.which, I am quite sure, won’t really matter much to me then.

And I hope you’re not one of those old, stooped, wrinkled people who is going to tell me you are enjoying your twilight years and the wisdom that has come with age much more than you did the stupidity of your youth. If that’s how you think you are one of the many who can’t face the wrinkled-up gnarly face in the mirror. Time to grow up and admit you’re old and that your days are numbered.

I’m not a happy old person. I don’t even know the man in the mirror. Who is that old prune-face? If I could, I would trade all my wisdom for the craziness and foolishness of youth.

Or would I?

That’s a ponderous thought. And, for some reason, it brings to mind a line from a Rod Stewart song “If I knew then what I know now – when I was younger…”

Life is not fair – it’s not fair to expect it to be. Why should it be?

If you’re old and sane I ask you — wouldn’t you love to go back to being twenty knowing what you know at let’s say 70? I don’t know about you, but I’d sure do a lot of things differently.

C’est la vie

It just so happens that on a day when these kinds of thoughts were coursing through my brain like some river of gray matter, a visitor came to my door. I was dozing in my recliner, a book dangling precariously from my hand, when I heard someone knocking, no rather it was more like a heavy pounding, on my door.

I struggled to lift my aging body up from the tattered, well-worn but cozy, old recliner and shuffled to the door with the gait of an old man – which I reluctantly admit to you I am.

Opening the door, I saw a man dressed in what appeared to be a very expensive black suit, white shirt, red tie, and shiny, expensive-looking shoes. He was wearing a fedora and for some reason, I found that funny. Who wears a fedora these days?

“Have you got a minute?” he sang – well he didn’t really sing but his voice was one of those voices I often hear in restaurants from waitresses I know don’t give a damn about how my day is going or how I am, yet they come bouncing over to my table acting like I was one of their long lost sweethearts. Sing-songy. If there is such a word there must be a hyphen in it.

I asked the man in the black suit  – the man who sang when he talked – what he wanted. I told him bluntly that didn’t have any money to buy anything because I’m currently on the public dole — that’s what I call Social Security — to which he replied, softly in his almost annoying, sing-songy voice,

“I am not here to sell you anything, but my assignment today, one could say, is a matter of life and death.”

He smiled when he said that, and I swear I heard a slight laugh pop out of his mouth. Matter of life and death – ha!

“I don’t have time for whatever you’re selling and I’m already a member of a church. I don’t proselytize and I don’t have the time or patience for those who do.”

I said this feeling my blood pressure rising and my anger welling up inside.

I can always tell when my blood pressure shoots up – I can feel it in my neck. My doctor – one of the many I call “my doctor”, said that is a myth. He said I could not feel my blood pressure rising. What does he know? If he knew what was wrong with me then I’d be cured.

The doctor has me where he wants me. I’m stuck in that endless medical loop and there’s no escaping it without dying that is – once I’m dead, all those doctors will have no use for me… I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills anyway.

I know it and everyone else who is old and in the medical loop knows it too. Once the doctors and hospitals get you in their Medicare-grabbing clutches you’re in for an endless cycle of new maladies, pills, tests, treatments, and procedures — procedures being the current euphemism for operations. Once you fall into that medical black hole, you can never get out. They won’t ever let you go – till death do us part.

Anyway, the stranger in the black suit said somberly, “I think you better invite me in because what I have to tell you is a matter of life and death. To be specific, your life and death. Even more specifically…your death.”

Suddenly a realization came to me as I looked into his brown, sallow, and startlingly sad eyes.

Right then, I knew what he was and what he was up to and said, “I’m going to be cremated within 24 hours of my death – in this state that means I don’t have to be embalmed. I won’t need a coffin. I won’t need a hearse. I won’t need to lie in state in your funeral home, being ogled by people who never liked me anyway.

I am so NOT interested in burial plots, coffins, embalming, services, hearses, or anything else you and your ilk pander to the grieving. I will leave it up to my children to have me cremated in accordance with my wishes. I won’t even need an urn from you – the woods behind my house will be my urn. So save yourself a lot of time and trouble and turn around and walk away. I’m not interested in what you’re selling. Go away!”

He addressed me by name in a tone of voice that suggested he knew me well — as if he were a friend of mine — but I had never met this man in my life.

“My visit is not to sell you anything; my visit is a matter of life and death. You may not want to hear what I have to say, but you will hear it just the same. I insist.”

Sing-songy…

He pushed his way through the door and for reasons I don’t understand, I felt weak and powerless, and let him pass unabated.

He looked around the room and sat on my sad green,  threadbare couch. I never saw the need to spend money on furniture – what I already owned was enough for me. It served my purposes. I never entertained anyone, I had no visitors, and frankly, I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of my furniture, my house, my clothes, me, or anything else.

He made no comment on the state of my living conditions, nor on the state of my old ratty and soiled furniture. Or on the pile of dirty dishes in the sink.

He was a tall man with a long face that defined sadness and gloom. When he smiled it looked forced like the smile you put on when someone tells you to smile for a photograph. When he took the fedora off his head, I could see his hair was shiny black and it was combed neatly with a sharp part on his left. His skin exuded pallor and it reminded me of the waxy-looking flesh of dead people lying in repose in satin-lined coffins.

There is more death about him than life, I thought to myself.

He looked at me and his gaze, for some reason, mesmerized me. I wanted to leave. I wanted him to leave. I felt powerless and weak and I didn’t know why. I just could not force myself to look away.

He flashed that fake smile and pulled a folded sheet of yellow paper from the inside pocket of his suit coat. He read my name and said he needed to “certify” that I was the person named. I managed a weak “yes” but could not say more, I felt like something was stuck in my throat.

When addressed me by name, his face turned sour when said “I have some information for you that you will not want to hear – no one ever does. And fortunately most people won’t ever have to hear the news I bring you. There is not enough time in the universe to visit everyone.”

Then he asked me if I wanted to know the exact date and time of my death. I wanted to ask him if I had a choice but I could not speak.

I must admit it was an almost irresistible temptation that overrode my intellect with salient, primal urges. I tried to speak again, but no sound came from my dry lips, but it didn’t matter anyway. He was not giving me a choice. He read somberly from the yellow sheet of paper as if reading from an affidavit or some formal court document. He told me the date and time of my death. I was paralyzed at that moment, unable to move and barely able to breathe.

The man stood up. He loomed over me like a cloud about ready to burst with rain and thunder. I would not say he seemed threatening, he seemed more foreboding and melancholy than anything.

It was then that he touched my shoulder and expressed to me that this had not been pleasant for him either, but only a few people were as privileged as I was —  as if you could call knowing the exact time and date of your own death a privilege.

He began walking toward the door and I noticed his gait was practiced and unnatural. The closest I can come to describing it would be zombie-like. His arms hung stiff at his sides as he walked – they remained absolutely motionless. His eyes darted right and left, but he never turned his head.

He turned around without moving his head at all and looked at me. He didn’t need to say anything, I somehow knew what he was going to say as he said his parting words.

“I will see you again soon. As you know now, I am the keeper of the gate.”

He left and disappeared into the distance walking east away from my house. A cat meowed in the bushes and a dog howled in the distance. The sky was cloudy and it looked like rain. The day had an ethereal feeling to it.

I stood in the doorway for a long moment moving as if guided by someone controlling my movements with a remote controller. My legs and arms felt heavy, my head was buzzing – I could hardly focus my eyes. I felt faint yet I was not able to fall down.

I felt as if the world was spiraling out of control.

The book fell out of my hand and hit the floor with a thud and woke me. It took me a few minutes to gather my thoughts and a few more for me to realize that all this was just a disturbing dream. Just a dream and nothing more. Still, the date and time of my death were now burned inextricably into my soul.

And though I now realized it had all been a dream, the date and time of my death hovered imminently and ominously in my mind – not too far away, yet I still had some time.

Though I’m a cynic, it’s still hard to completely discount the supernatural. It is often difficult to intellectualize away all the things that we cannot explain. Cynical though I am, there are things that I can’t explain away with brains and logic.

Things that are and are not – ephemeral, fleeting, enigmatic in-between things. Not so much those ghosts and specters flitting around deep in my subconscious… but even more everyday things like deja vu — like where was I three hundred years ago?

Are there more dimensions we can experience? Are there more dimensions than we know? Can we, sometimes, somehow know the unknowable like when I feel that someone I love is in danger… and really is?

The date written upon my soul by the man in the black suit can’t be erased. I can’t wash or scrub it away – it is forever there, indelible, haunting, grim, and gnawing.

I wonder what will happen when that date and time do come. Is it the unknowable reaching out again into my one-dimensional realm of reality?  Or was it just a dream, a conjured-up tale from the dark and labyrinthine depths of my own subconscious? Maybe the man in the dream was, as Dickens’ Scrooge said, “… an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

There aren’t that many days between today and the day of my predicted death. What if it weren’t a dream? What if it really is the exact date and time of my death?

What should I do?

I could waste the remaining days of my life fretting and worrying – paralyzed with fear. I could sit in my recliner and stare into the abyss of nothingness feeling sorry for myself until someone found my body, still and waxen, alone in my chair.

Should I be a coward who dies a thousand deaths, or a hero that dies but one?

I could try to make every minute count and not to waste one more minute of one single day that is left to me in this life.

Isn’t that the way I should have always lived anyway?

I have wasted so much time on trivial pursuits.

If the date and time of my death were given to me by the man in my dream were real, what will I do?

I think I would make every minute of every day count. And even if it were just a dream and the date of my death just a fantastical and silly idea dredged up from my subconscious during an old man’s nap, I could turn it into a lesson… a lesson well learned.

Time spent can’t be put back in the bank of time. I can’t earn more time and I can’t spend more time than I have.  I can’t really save time — that just doesn’t seem fair but it’s true. You cannot put time in the bank and save it for another day.

What I will do is take that troubling dream seriously and as well as the lesson it taught me. What harm will it do if l consider the dream a prescient and an accurate prediction of my own demise? So I will choose to believe that the date and time of my death revealed to me in the dream, are accurate.

And knowing the date and time of my death I vow to make the most of each minute, each hour, each day, and each week left to me. A mysterious dream of the future has come to visit me and though it may only be a dream I will take it as fact.

I will believe in it and live the rest of the days I have remaining to me believing it – believing the date and the hour of my death as were foretold to me. And if that day comes and goes and I find that I’m still alive, then I haven’t lost anything… and I’ve learned so much.

And whether or not I did die on the appointed day at the appointed hour, will be of no consequence.

Today isn’t the day but I know I have no time left to waste. From now on, every minute counts, every hour counts, every day counts, and every week counts.

I have no time left to waste.  And now I realize I never did.

One thought on “No Time Left to Waste

  1. jill delany

    I feel like you know me 🙂
    My thoughts exactly.
    AND, you have certainly made my life better – I rely on my computer to create cards for others, play bridge online, learn and use Excel for oh so many things. You’ve been a Blessing to me and to many.
    Thank You, too for sharing your thoughts – so like my own.

    Reply

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