25 October 99
Today is the birthday of Frederic Chopin, Pablo Picasso, and me. Is this
significant? I play the piano like Picasso, and paint like Chopin, so
maybe the answer is No.
Two significant people have died. Senator John H. Chafee died yesterday,
and golfer Payne Stewart died today. I shall miss both of them.
Mr. Stewart because his outfits
livened up the tournaments, and because he seemed like a nice guy,
and was a good sport, someone it was a pleasure to see win;
Senator Chafee because he's just always been there, a good guy,
doing a good job, trying to do the right thing, since before I could
vote. Everyone knew him when I was a kid, had met him, talked to him.
He was a friend. If there was a problem, you could actually call his
office and talk to him. I've done it.
I remember years ago when his daughter died
from being kicked by a horse at a horse show. My cousin and I were
showing horses then, too, and so, though we had not met her, she
was one of us, and we learned that our youth was no protection
These are very melancholy thoughts for a birthday. But it wasn't a
bad day. I took a walk in the sunshine, and saw the bright leaves
against a high-blue sky (a did a picture of them, as you see above);
later I saw a
full moon rising in the east,
and walked home in the bright blue moonlight that always makes me
feel as if I'm on the theatre stage with a follow spot on me.
I felt a little saddened by the deaths, but...
In my youth, I used to be very afraid of death. But, in my age,
though I don't want to die, I no longer fear death. I've come to
terms with it. Mostly. Oh, I still worry about the time when I'll
lose the people I care about, when I may find myself the last of my
family and friends, all the others having "gone on" before me-- How
will it feel not to have parents? To know that there is no one older
I can count on for comfort and advice? But
there aren't any guarantees, and maybe I won't be the last to go:
as Omar observed: which of us knows whether we will breathe out the
very breath we now breathe in?
The only comfort is in knowing that none of us will get out of this
life alive. And when we depart, we'll be in good company...
Do you think there's something after? Is it like in Betelgeuse,
a kind of cosmic joke where suicides are made into civil servants, and
the newly dead get an instruction manual? Can you beat Death the way
Bill and Ted did playing Battleship-- can you give Death a wedgie?
Or is it like in Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea books, where
there is no knowing or doing, where the souls wander aimless and
unfeeling in a barren, dry land?
Is there beer? I sincerely hope so.