|Sal DeRosa's birthday celebration - Service Club, Ft. George F. Meade, MD 1961|
When I was young, in my twenties and thirties, I rarely thought about dying and death. Now that I am seventy years old I often think about dying and death.
I've written about this subject before only to be chastised by a blogger friend (for whom I have much respect) who advised me not to dwell on dying and death. However, he recently turned fifty (a mear child compared to my advanced years) and recently wrote his own blog post about death and dying. That's what happens folks if you're fortunate enough to live long enough to reflect on death and dying.
I've also been thinking about this subject a lot lately because of two books I've been reading. One is about prisoners of war during World War II in the Phillipines, specifically the Bataan Death March. A survivor wrote the book. It is amazing that so many underwent those hellish conditions because of their strong will to survive.
I also recently read a book about a Jewish woman from Poland who was a slave laborer for the Nazi's during World War II. She also survived hellish conditions to write about her ordeal. The overriding subject was her strong will to survive.
Right now a good friend of mine two parents, 94 and 92 years old respectively are in facilities near death. He is dealing with that stressful situation as I write this.
The past few years man of my friends, former co-workers and relatives have died. Quite a few younger than me. A few weeks ago a very popular young gay man who I knew slightly was hit by a drunk driver in Rehoboth and his life ended in a flash. Yes, I am quite aware of the fragility of life and the nearness of death especially at my age which is seventy.
At the top of this blog is a photo of a happy group of young people. It was taken at Ft. George G. Meade, Maryland in 1961 (I think, I may be a year off). It was at the Service Club for enlisted men. The occasion was my friend Sal DeRosa's 26th birthday.
The man holding the knife to Sal's throat is John D. Bicking, Jr.
The laughing man seated to the far right was my good friend Ronald Hampton.
The man seated to Sal's right, behind the red-headed woman, was our friend Peter Puphsis.
In the back, second from the left, the tall guy with his eyes closed....that's me. Still alive.
Oh the stories behind the folks in this picture. That would be subject for many future blog postings but I'll stick with one subject on this blog posting, death. All those people I mentioned are now dead.
|All gone now|
Ron and Sal were my two gay friends while I was in the Army. They were the first gay people I met. John Bicking and Peter Pupshis were straight but they didn't give a shit that we were gay. We were all friends. In fact, most of us "played the game" and had girl friends at the Service Club dances, thus the presence of women in this photo.
John Bicking knew that Sal and Ron were hot after him. Of course none of us did anything about it in those days. This was the Sixties remember? The point I want to make was all the life and camaraderie that we had in spite of our differences. Now those friends of mine are gone.
I don't know about most of the other people in the photo. I assume they're gone too. I seem to be the lone survivor. Maybe I should feel guilty about that but I don't. I feel that I have been chosen, for what I do not know. All I know is that my time isn't over yet.
This photo and these names are but a very small representation of friends that are now gone. I could fill many pages of photos of friends who I am also standing with in photos, who are now gone. Yet I am left.
|George Hadfield, my maternal grandfather - the only grandparent I ever knew|
I remember something my grandfather told me when he was 86 years old, one year before he died. He said "Ronnie, the bad thing about getting old is that you lose all your friends. I have no friends left." That statement has always stuck with me because I remember how sad I was for my grandfather when he said that. He was a very gregarious and social man and towards the end he felt like the odd man out. Sure, he had children and grandchildren and great grandchildren but his friends....gone.
The older I get the more I feel like the odd man out. I still have some friends who are my age (mostly from school days) that I stay in contact with. However, they seem to be dying with increasing frequency lately. Each year I have to stock up on sympathy cards.
I feel like I'm rambling here, but I did want to write about this subject that has been on my mind a lot lately.
I do not fear death. I think once we die there is a big void of which we are unaware. Of course I realize I'm offending all those of you who subscribe to various religious theories. I don't, they never made sense to me, no offense.
What I do fear is being alone when I die. That is a real fear. Secondly I fear being helpless and dependent on others while I'm hanging on to the last vestiges of my life. I do not want anyone caring for me. I do not want to end up wearing diapers when I die. I don't want to die confused, in discomfort and pain. I do not want to go that way.
Every day I take an afternoon nap. Lately those naps have been longer and deeper. I think, is that what death is like? When I go will I see my friends again?
Remember that last scene from "Longtime Companion"? It was one of those early AIDS films. At the end all the friends who died of AIDS related diseases met again on the beach. Oh how I hope that is what happens when I die. That to me would be Heaven.
This is one of my rambling blog posts. Stream of conscience babble. No excuses. I'm writing from my heart.
Do not feel sad for me. I know I will die. We all will die someday. We just don't know when. But I do know I have lived the majority of my life already. I'm on the downward slide. I'm not getting any prettier. Less people are interested in me than ever before in my life because I am no longer attractive. Now that I'm a SENIOR CITIZEN I am irrevocably in that class of doddering old fools. I am rarely taken seriously by younger folk. Bill keeps telling me to color my beard (it's white) so I don't look so old. Hey, you can only hang on to the appearances of youth so long. At some point you have to give it up and accept that you're an OLD MAN.
|The view of Downingtown my from my burial lot in Northwood Cemetery - nice view.|
I don't know, did I make my point in this rambling blog? Just some random thoughts on death and dying that have been invading my head this past year or so.