Stories from my little corner of the world, the South. Some are from the present, some from the past...but all are from my heart.

They reflect my thoughts and views, my musing about the world, and each carries with it a bit of my heart
and soul.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

And the Winner is...Death.

 I don't know about the rest of you writers out there, but I've certainly had my delusions of grandeur at one time or another. I suppose it's a natural progression when you spend a lot of time writing your heart out, you hope for an audience to read and show some recognition of what you're trying to achieve with your words. 

What I was writing at the time were short stories, and no matter how I started out, they ended up with the theme of death somewhere in amongst the pages.  Usually, between the first and fourth or fifth page, someone in each story would die, or would be dealing with the death of someone else. 

My Muse obviously had a death obsession and she meant to fulfill it in each story I wrote.

You see, I came to think, that I understood why people avoided made them uncomfortable. And, in my infinite wisdom I began to believe I could compel people to face Death with my stories. Death, that forbidden subject that we all dance around and avoid at all cost...I'd be the one to shine a light on it, I'd MAKE people look at it and confront their fears about it. 

I'd open up a national dialogue (this was in my fantasy where one of the short stories I'd written and submitted was recognized for it superior writing and I'd be offered a book deal to publish all my stories). 

Oprah would love my book and choose it for her book club, people would then clamor to buy the book, it'd be the topic of in-depth book club discussions, and finally, America would no longer be afraid to face death squarely and meet it with dignity and understanding. 

Remember, I did say this was a fantasy, so cut me some slack. I was quite serious about it, about what I hoped I could achieve if someone read my work. I worked hard on my stories. Being steeped in the lore and storied history of Southern writers, I fancied myself an heir to that glorious past. There was little doubt to anyone who read them that my stories were supremely southern, in setting, characterization, and dialect. It's the only way I know to write, there's no artificial affectations in what I was doing. My stories came from my past, my heart, and my very southern soul. 

After a bit, I started to think about how the stories could be a collection and decided I needed to think of a title. One day it came to me as clear as a bell, the book title would so obvious: Life and Death with a Southern Accent. I even had a vision in my head of a drawing for the cover, the exact order of the stories, and some wording for the foreword. In my vivid imagination, it all seemed to be perfect.  All I needed was to get that one story published and recognized.

 I thought I had it all figured out. It'd take time and perseverance, but I could handle that. I'd write, edit, submit, get rejected...and then start the process all over again. I had faith in myself and figured eventually it would happen for me. I might be 65 before it did, but it WOULD happen.

 That all seems so long ago, and so juvenile. Funny how time changes everything. 

 Time, and a personal visit from Death, makes all the difference in the world.

I had no idea, a year ago, how completely my life, and the lives of my family, would be forever changed. I suppose, if we had any clue as to how little we knew, and how tenuous our understanding of Life and Death really is, we'd probably never get out of bed in the morning. 

When Death came to our family last June, we were completely unprepared. Nothing I'd written or read or seen helped me understand how enormous, and final, the loss would be. We were blissfully unaware until it steps foot in our doorway.

It seemed like a normal Saturday morning, I'd gone to drop off one of our little dogs to be trimmed. Afterwards, while I was running errands, my momma called me on my cell phone. When I think of it now, I'm amazed at the control in her voice. I had no clue that the news she was about to divulge was so monumental. 

She casually asked, "Is Wayne there, I need to talk to him?"

I answered, "No ma'am, I'm not at home, I'm running errands. Did you call his cell? He's outside working on that bathroom window he's going to replace, but he should have his phone on him."

She said okay and hung up. I left the parking lot and headed to the bank to take out some money. I had a manicure and pedicure scheduled for later in the afternoon and needed some money for tips. 

I was completely unaware that at that moment my husband was getting the most horrible news he could ever imagine.

When I got home, as I got out of the car, and I heard this pitiful sobbing. It startled me and sent chills up my spine. It that seemed to be coming from behind the privacy fence at the front of the house. I knew in an instant it was Wayne's voice. He sounded like he was in terrible pain.

Oh my god, I thought, what's wrong? Something is horribly, horribly wrong!  My mind thrashed with horrible possibilities. I jumped to the conclusion that he had fallen off the ladder and was badly hurt. I called his name and rushed to the gate to see if he was alright.

His ashen face and tears frightened me, and he seemed to be hunched over, but he didn't seem to be physically hurt. He was still holding his closed phone in his hand and wiping his eyes with a bandana. 

My rushing adrenaline caused me to sway as I hurried toward him, and I almost stumbled. I demanded to know what was wrong.

He put his hand on my shoulder and in a shaky voice said, "Rose, let's go inside."

Suddenly, I felt more frightened than I ever had been. My guts started churning and I felt a wave of nausea roll over me.  In the far reaches of my mind, I knew Death had come to visit. Someone had died, someone close to us, someone that we both loved dearly. 

 "No!" I shouted. I was suddenly belligerent, angry at what I knew he was going to say. "Tell me what's wrong, tell me now!! I don't want to go inside."

"Rose...please." His spoke barely above a whisper. The pain in his voice and anguish on his face softened me. I started crying.

 I knew it was bad news, I thought immediately that it was Daddy. He had died and Momma had called to tell Wayne so he could let me know.

We stumbled through the garage and into the house. "That was your momma on the phone..." I interrupted him saying, "I know, she called me while I was leaving Pet Supermarket, she said she needed to talk to you." By this time I was shaking all over and starting to cry harder. "Tell me what's wrong!"

Before he could answer I asked. "Is it Daddy?" 

"Sit down, baby. Please, just sit down." 

I sat. 

It felt as if my skin would explode, my heart was pounding, my breath was labored...I couldn't think coherently.

"It's not your daddy." There was a pause as he struggled to say the next words. 

My voice felt raspy as I whispered, "Well who?" I needed to know, but I didn't want to know. If he didn't say it, it wouldn't be true.

 I wished to hold this moment in frozen silence, never to find out what he knew.

"It's Micah, he was in an accident." The statement, spoken as truth, couldn't be accepted as such in my muddled state of mind. I felt my chest constrict, it was almost too painful to breathe.

"Micah? Is he gonna be okay, how bad is it, where's he at, is he at the  hospital...." The words rushed out, I was willing my husband to tell me what I wanted, not what he knew to be true.

"No baby, he's not okay..." His voice broke with tears, and he moved to put his arms around me.

 I started shaking my head before the words even came out of his mouth. I didn't want to hear them, I wouldn't hear them. 

I saw Death standing in the corner of my living room and I screamed: "NO NO NO NO NO NO's a mistake, it's not true, he's okay, he gonna be okay."

But I knew, at that moment, it would never be okay again. And our family, our little family would never, ever be the same again. The rules about everything had changed forever.

Wayne shook his head and told me the horrible truth. Micah, my fourteen year old nephew,  my brother's only son, my parents' only grandson, was dead. 

He and a friend had gone riding on the friend's four-wheeler. Jacob, his friend was driving, and Micah was on the back. Somehow, in some freak sort of way that accidents happen, they ran out of the dirt road they were riding on without stopping and ran into the back wheels of a semi-truck that was going by on the paved road. 

They were both killed instantly.

Death, whom I'd assumed I knew and understood so well that I could to write stories about it, had come to show me I didn't know shit!

I was without any defenses when it came, we all were. It settled in for a long visit as the next week painfully passed and we went through the rituals of death our society expects.
 It didn't come expected, and even invited, the way it had only seven month before when my 94 year old grandmother died. We knew it was coming, we prepared for it. She even asked for it to come so that she could "go home" to be with my grandfather. This was the death we could accept because it was the right time. This was Death on our terms.

But Micah's death was the sneaky kind that's never expected, and never, ever wanted. It's the Death of the young who die in tragic circumstances, and when you hear about it on the news or read it in the paper, you think to sad for the family. 

But you have NO idea what they go through, no idea how completely their worlds change in that few seconds between the before and after of Death.  I had no clue how much it could hurt, how deep grief could take hold of your heart and mind.  

I do know now that Death is the one thing we will never, any of us, completely understand. I was a fool to think I had any inkling about it.

I won't say I'm done with my stories. I may revisit them in the future to read them again, and perhaps do some editing. At some point I may even submit one somewhere again.

 But, I will never presume to know more about Death, than it does. I lost more than I could have ever imagined, and my life will never be the same. Our family is forever changed. 

On June 5th, 2010 I conceded my total incompetence and complete lack of knowledge of most things I thought I knew about Life, in general, and especially about Death. 

I know now, that I know nothing about nothing.

And the winner in all of this, always in the end, is Death.

Rose~Feb. 16th, 2011


  1. It is always Death in the end, but you reveal that is life until we get there, Rose

  2. Thanks Mike. I really needed to write about this, but just couldn't until now. This blog feels like a private little journal, (well except for you :) and I like that anonymity.