Контент 18+ Once upon a time back in the old days of the Wild West in America, there was a white man and a black man who had been caught while trying to rob a bank. Naturally, according to the judgment of the day, they were sentenced to be hanged. They waited in their cell for the hour of doom. But while the white man grew increasingly agitated, the black fellow remained calm. Finally, the white guy lost it completely. “O God, please don’t let ’em hang me!” he wailed. “Save me, don’t let ’em do it! Agggghhhh! Aahhhh!”, etc. The black man observed this display and finally had enough.
“Listen,” he explained. “We tried to rob the bank. We shot the bank teller and the guard. Now we are going to pay for it. We are getting what we deserve, so why don’t you accept it and take it like a man?”
The sobbing white man finally gasped out, “That’s easy for YOU to say. You n——– are used to getting strung up !”
So I guess the moral of that story should be that it’s OK for some people to die — like extras in a war film — as long as the ‘chosen ones’ are allowed to survive– at least until the climactic moment when, giving up the ghost heroically for God and country, they succumb after bravely addressing a few eloquent parting words to whatever beautiful woman, tears running down her cheeks, resolutely kneels at their side, holding their hand and promising to carry on the fight.
The trouble with death is — like everything in life — it tends to do its business with woeful inconsistency. It is the mischievous interloper, the uninvited guest, the elephant in the room, the turd in the punch-bowl. And sometimes Mr. Death dresses up like your best friend. His Hello is Your Goodbye.When my mother died, years ago and back in America, she was very ill but had no idea how bad it was. Hospice was looking after her, but even I thought they were crazy. Why hospice? She had broken her hip for the second time, and unlike on the first occasion, that time they couldn’t operate because they said her heart was too weak. So they sent her home (instead of to a nursing home) because I agreed to come back from Russia to personally take care of her.
OK, I said to myself, for now, she is an invalid and her heart is weak, but Mom will get better. In fact, we were watching a tennis match together on TV and I asked her, “Mom, do you really think you can get back on your feet?” — and she had just answered, “Yes, I do,” — when suddenly she sort of hiccupped and then slumped over on her side. Her heart had decided this was the moment to stop the music. And that was the end of Mom.
My father, on the other hand, who died a couple of months ago, was 90 years old, perfectly aware that he had terminal cancer, that Mr. Death was now in sight, driving his shiny black sedan slowly up the mountain, and that it wouldn’t be long before he parked in front of the house and opened the door to the backseat. Well, my dad was an artist and something of a philosopher, and he had plenty of time to think it over. He loved life, and so he put up a fight. But in the end, he gave his by then emaciated body in complete docility to the black-suited host, followed him in shriveled bare feet out the door, and then, as his family watched, the two of them drove away.
So which is better — when you don’t know or when you know? Sometimes, here in Bulgaria, I sit joyously in the evening, the fireplace blazing, with my wife Liuba, my two dogs Casper and Poppendoshka, and Thomas, Liuba’s longstanding cat (14 years old now) who has joined us from Moscow and is now more or less accepted by the dogs. I have traveled many roads in life, not all of them good ones, but somehow the fanaticism of my winding ways has led here, and it all comes as a wonderful, though probably not completely deserved, reward. I bask in the glowing evening. I look out the window for Mr. Death, but I don’t see him anywhere.
Yet, as I look around, I wonder: which of us will go first? Who will be the first to disappear from the family portrait? One might say it will be Thomas, but that is not a given. Liuba has severe bronchial problems. Maybe it will be her. Maybe one of the dogs. Or maybe me. When that time comes — as it must — our happiness will be diminished. Glittering reality will dissolve into memory’s murky mosaic. O yes…
Maybe this will strike you as a morbid subject, and I know — you can repeat it to me if you wish, but I already know — that we must simply live — live and put gloomy thoughts aside. It’s not entirely good advice because I am keenly aware that plans need to be made in advance. Those who will live on will need to be protected. That’s why I keep working. But I agree that we should savor the moments of happiness without poisoning them with miserable tidings of a bereavement that hasn’t happened.
I guess what has got me thinking about all this is the airplane crash that occurred last Sunday near Domodedovo. I confess that what made it worse was when I saw pictures of some of the victims. There were children and a few beautiful young women. It makes no sense at all to feel more sorry for someone just because she was beautiful and young, but I admit that I did. I would even go so far as to say that when I — who am a very nervous flier — board an aircraft, the first thing I do is look at the stewardesses and other passengers. I feel safer if some of the women are beautiful. How crazy is that? Maybe it is even contemptible…that I should imagine that mere physical beauty could make a difference, could make one exempt from death. After all, it didn’t help Princess Diana, did it? So it is the stupidest thought in the world. But I think it anyway.
One way or the other, I imagine that human error was at fault in that crash. The people on the ground simply didn’t do their jobs properly. It happens. Furthermore, among the students I have discussed the fatal crash with, most have jumped forward to reaffirm that, STATISTICALLY, flying is still the best way. And of course the old saw that you are more likely to get killed driving to the airport than during the flight itself, surfaced — as it always does. Try telling that to the ghosts of the dead passengers.
Last Sunday, those poor people got up, just like I did, and had breakfast. They checked their luggage, talked on the phone to those awaiting them in that town in the Urals, went to the airport, stood in line, endured the boring (but necessary !!) security check, waited at the gate, boarded the plane, fastened their seat-belts, and listened to the safety instructions. Down the runway they went.
And then they died. Already it is yesterday’s news, although the families of those who perished will be haunted for life. One guy and his wife (or girlfriend) canceled at the last moment and survived. I wonder what they are thinking.
The ‘God’ for whom the mourners lit the candles in the desolate aftermath must have been out working on his golf game when it happened. Or studying astronomy. Never expect ‘Him” to come to the rescue.
An official explanation will be forthcoming. Guaranteed, some Motherless Fuck has already come up with a conspiracy theory. The people who died are beyond all theories. They are past their pain. Maybe they sit now in some great banquet hall full of food and champagne and chandeliers and mirrors, wishing that we who are still trapped here on earth could be reassured of their peace and bliss. Or maybe not.
I sit with my family and consume the precious, precious time together. And I am on no hurry to get on an airplane, even though I understand that the ‘statistics’ would be much in my favor. No thank you. But when I do I guess I will catch myself glancing nervously at the stewardesses. And I will whisper under my breath, “We’re going to be OK. That one there is really pretty. No way she’s going to die today. God wouldn’t let that happen to such a marvelous young angel.”
===Eric Richard Leroy===