But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
’To a Mouse’
Robert Burns, 1785
There had always been a part of me that had wanted to die. Or maybe just be dead. They’re different things, allegedly. Being dead meant release, freedom. Dying was supposed to be the difficult part. With this in mind, I’d reached a point in life where being dead, but not dying, had become preferable to being ‘alive’. The family was in shambles, I was newly single and a freshly-minted flavor of unemployed. Life around me seemed ripe for my leaving it.
With this in mind, I’d set in motion steps necessary for the arrangement of my evident demise. On a solitary trip to the mountains, I would have an accident involving an automobile and a fair amount of fire with an explosion as an added bonus for any possible spectators. I used what meager biomedical experience I’d accumulated to ensure that there was just enough DNA evidence left in the vehicle to point investigators my way without being too obvious. The cause of the ‘accident’ was less an issue than the outcome; my being dead was all that mattered.
The deed done, recklessness took hold and I remained on the periphery of my home town until the funeral. I’d decided to attend since it had always struck me as something that I would enjoy immensely. Not for any dark or vengeful reason, mind you, but more as a literary conceit. The process of being able to sit in on one’s own wake and listen to the living discuss the dead seemed almost poetic to me. Also, it would constitute the initiation of my new life. No more debt. No more drama. No more expectations, from myself or others. It would signal in every way life anew.
The day of the funeral, recklessness graduated to stupidity, as I arrived at the cathedral hours early. The church that I’d attended since a boy was to be my point of departure in the eyes of all who’d known me. Knowing the building as I did, I’d learned young the nooks and crannies that had allowed us as children to flee the eyes of the grownups in order to sit in unseen places and read comics or tell lies or engage in whatever was more interesting than the gospels. And so it was that I found myself in this same nook (or cranny), looking down on a packed church and a casket holding what were supposedly my remains.
I know now that death is only a burden to the living. I wasn’t prepared for the pain that I heard in the voices of friends and family. Their lamentations opened my eyes to the selfishness inherent in my decision. My mother questioned how she would go on with her life with the loss of her first born, the pain of losing a child written with eternal clarity on her face and in her words. And friends that I’d always assumed were mere acquaintances spoke with unreserved eloquence concerning their feelings about me, my life, and its impact on theirs.
I had thrown this all away and in doing something with an air of indefinite finality, I’d ripped apart lives other than my own. How could I, now dead to everyone except myself, live with this? The perfection of death resides in how it gives life meaning. If you concentrate on its inevitability, fear ceases to exist. Failure’s temporary ache pales in comparison to there being no second chances after we die. I had never considered any of this until after I was supposedly dead.
Understanding that my exit prior to the congregation’s was mandatory, I took one final look at the carnage I’d wrought upon all of those who’d known and loved me, retreated from my secret perch and out of the cathedral. Fate is fickle, but it also has a sense of humor. As I was walking to my car, I crossed a street that I had crossed hundreds, maybe thousands of times before. It was never a busy street, so I failed to consider traffic at this time, my mind being preoccupied with contemplating the lives I’d just wrecked.
The ice cream truck wasn’t playing it’s normal tinny, infuriating music as it sped along at the mercy of a foot belonging to its disgruntled driver. I didn’t feel the impact. Truth be told, I felt nothing at all, save the release that I’d always yearned for in death. And when I opened my eyes I saw my grandfather, himself long dead, staring down at me and shaking his head. He gave me his hand, told me that it was alright, but added, ‘I don’t think you realize the confusion your dying twice will cause.’
For the Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week, Caroline challenged me with “Faking your own death” and I challenged Amanda to write about performing an intervention on herself regarding a part of her personality that she thinks needs work.
Sir @ October 6, 2011