This past month I was forced to take a look at the thing we call life; its ups and downs, its uncertainties and its end, sometimes brutal, sometimes peaceful in some quiet corner.
I was also forced to examine my own mortality and I came to the stark reality that I could depart this world sooner rather than later.
It was August 15 that I got a call from a nephew in the United States informing me that my brother-in-law was dying in a Harlem hospital.
He was 54 but he had a congenital condition that caused him to have a pacemaker when he was merely 36 years old. His heart had begun to act up.
He survived the operation and went on to live a normal life and even got married for the second time. Things took a turn for the worse late last year.
I had gone to the United States on vacation and he picked me up at the airport to take me to New Jersey. From the instant I saw him I knew that he was ill but I thought that he was suffering a bout of the flu.
His wife, my sister, was out of State and two days later he had to go back to the airport, this time to collect her.
From the moment she set eyes on him she demanded that he go to the hospital but he was a stubborn coot. Early the next morning, though, she bundled him to the hospital where he remained even after I returned to Guyana.
My sister organized a birthday party for him on July 5, last and both she and her husband beseeched me to come. Perhaps they both knew that he was having his last birthday party.
Commitments caused me to decline the invitation but I vowed that I would be there in the summer. I kept my promise but he was not around. He died and it was this death that caused me to travel in August.
While there a few weeks later, I got a phone call informing me that my father had died. Death dragged me out of Guyana and death dragged me back.
My father was a different story. He had suffered a stroke back in 2000 and people expected him to die. He did not. Instead, he recovered and did better than that. He was fiercely independent and refused to accept that his lot was to be reliant on people.
I remember that day in April last year when he obviously suffered another stroke and became bedridden. His two other sons came home from overseas and heard his pleas to be taken back to Linden.
One of my brothers, Cecil, told him that if he walked again he would go to Linden. The old man walked. He was strong of will and it seemed that whatever he put his mind to, he did.
He was 90 when he died, fed up with being sick because of increasing old age and I actually said to myself that had I been in Guyana and not gone to the United States he would have been alive today. I heard that he kept asking my niece whether I had returned. I had not.
I sat back and looked at my own life. Just the other day, or so it seemed, I was a young man without a care in the world. I partied and drank; I did all the things that young people do, some of them dangerous and unmentionable.
Then I got married and children came. I had responsibility. I watched my little children grow. Just the other day they were so small and helpless; today they themselves are parents and my life is slowly ebbing, although to me it is not.
I did a quick review and I concluded that I may have no more than 20 or 30 years on earth and from the way things went 20 or 30 years is not much, because the last 20 or 30 years just disappeared, perhaps while I was asleep.
I once jogged every morning then one day my knees began to ache, I believed from the constant pounding. I was fooling myself; old age had set in. My body was telling me that the things that I once did I could do no more.
Then the doctors are telling me that my blood pressure is elevated. That was something unheard of when I was a youth, just the other day. I suppose that I have reached the stage where I have to live on medication for the rest of my life.
Yesterday I saw my father in a casket and I saw myself doing the same in a few short years to come. Am I afraid? I don’t think so.
My brother-in-law knew that his end was near and he faced it, even to the point of planning the hymns he wanted sung at his funeral.
My father was no different. I heard that he actually picked out his burial spot and decided on the clothes he wanted to wear when he died.
It is not that I am as morbid because I don’t intend to go anywhere in a hurry, but it is simply mind-boggling how short life is, and how tenuous.
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