The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “the afterlife”

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin

originally published April 3, 2015

 

(Although written several years ago,  the moral of this story is excruciatingly apt for what’s going on now.)

alexmankiewicz.com-ostrich2

 

Ha

The writing was on the wall, plain enough to see for anyone who looked. I saw it, myself, but I could not believe what was written. All the signs were there. Danger increased every day. Mistrust festered. Hatred boiled just below the surface. You couldn’t help but feel it, but many of us were hoping it would burn itself out.  We could not believe it would get worse. Surely people would come to their senses!   After all, we were living in modern times, in a civilized place. So we thought. But then, doesn’t everyone believe they are living in a civilized place in modern times?

The lucky ones, the smart ones, they left while they still could. The earlier they heeded the signs, the more they were able to salvage of their lives. Others, like me, simply couldn’t believe it could get bad enough to warrant picking up our entire lives and fleeing; leaving behind everyone and everything we knew. Leaving behind our homes, our businesses, our jobs, our schools, our places of worship, our sense of belonging.

By the time things became desperate, there was no escaping. The slaughter had begun and there was no one and nothing to protect us. In that time of fear, what was most terrifying of all was seeing how quickly men become animals; how uncivilized they can be the defense of their civilization.

It’s natural to look at violence and war and cruelty that takes place far away or happened long before we were born, and think, “That was a different time; those were different people. It can’t happen here. We are better than that.”

I learned in the most cruel way, it is always dangerous to underestimate the brutality of humans.

Too many are of them are voids, easily raised to ire and led to violence by those who can fill their hearts with meaning.

artwork: http://www.alexmankiewicz.com

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Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

The Definition of Us

first published March 29, 2015


hands

Aya

Love is defined not only by the emotions we feel for others but by how others feel about us.

We each make our choices about who we want to be. Shall we be the kind of person whom others feel joy to keep close to their hearts, even after we long are out of their lives? Will we be entirely forgettable, leaving little impression on those whose lives we’ve crossed? Will we be the person who causes others anticipate the relief of no longer feeling anything for us?   Do we uplift those around us or prop ourselves up at the expense of others?

And it is from these basic choices that our actions flow.  And from these actions, grow our character.

_____

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

Equilibrium and the Bell Curve

First published March 23, 2014

bigstock__d_gold_balance_the_scales_of_61236361

Mok

As a child, I never had much use for school. Perhaps I lacked the interest or the attention span. Or maybe I just wasn’t smart enough. Or maybe a little of each. I dropped out of school before high school and felt like a big, important man because I worked and had spending money, while my friends still suffered in class.

When I was older, those same friends became more successful than I was because they had more resources, more knowledge, more information. But I had my own small business and earned a good living – enough to support my family in a comfortable way. To be sure, I did some things that weren’t one hundred percent legal in order to stay above water, but I was smart enough never to get caught.

I would never admit it to anyone – I couldn’t even acknowledge it to myself — but I was insecure about my lack of education. Rather than consider myself less than those who had degrees, I mocked them – to myself and to others. I took the position that highly educated people had no idea about real life; that all their knowledge was theoretical. Their so-called facts had no relation to my world. The academics in government made policy based on statistics and theory. I, however, had real-life experience. My opinions were at least as valuable as their facts and theories; maybe more so. I had no use for them.

I resisted change. My position was that the old way was good enough. It wasn’t so much that changes in the world did not benefit me (although they generally did not) but rather I did not have the ability, knowledge or flexibility to evolve with the times. I couldn’t keep up with technology. I didn’t have the intellectual capacity to read about or comprehend new concepts. I didn’t have the energy or focus to navigate cultural shifts. Society grows ever more complicated, and I preferred the comfortable familiarity of what I already knew. I simply wasn’t up to the challenge of constant change. I voted for people who thought as I did, even though they were as unqualified as I was to run the country.

The older I got, the more conservative I became in my thinking. I became bitter and angry that the world was moving forward without me, regardless of how much I kicked and screamed. By the time I died, I was so fed up with the world and how (I believed) it had changed for the worse, I wasn’t sorry to leave it behind.

Human culture is continuum of those who remain grounded in the past and those who are willing to leap off a cliff into the unknown. Sometimes a leap into unknown produces great advances forward. Sometimes, it brings disaster. Those who resist change function as an anchor. They assure that when those who jump off the cliffs leave a big stain, someone is left to run things. On the other hand, if nobody is willing to take the leap, there is no progress; humankind would stagnate and die. Those at the extremes balance each other, keeping the equilibrium.

 

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Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

Beautiful Birds in a Cage

 

first published July  20, 2016

Schi

I was born into slavery ; I never knew any other life.  My mother was taken as a girl.  As I was the product of her body, so I was property as well.  My mother was concubine to the master and even though I was the offspring of that union,  I had no birthright.

We, and others like us, had to work because we were not wives.  We had no power, no rights, little privilege. We were at the beckoning of the master’s mother, who ruled us like a queen.

Those who were concubines went to the master or his guests when summoned. Otherwise, we worked in the house or in the court at jobs that best fit our skills and age. The concubines did not work in the fields,  lest we become unattractive and our usefulness diminished.

When I was young, I sewed tiny precious beads onto beautiful fabrics, in elaborate, intricate designs using the finest golden thread. These were later made into clothing for the family.  I did this until my fingers cramped and bled (I had to be careful not to stain the silk!) I did it until my eyes crossed and I was nearly blind. I did it until my neck and back ached even when I slept.

Still, my lot was better than the slaves who worked the fields and orchards. I thought myself lucky. I was fed regularly. My living quarters were clean and dry and warm in the winter. If I became very ill, my symptoms were tended to by the doctor. We were not beaten or whipped.

We were kept away from all men. Our bodies were not ours to give nor for any man but the master to take or share as he saw fit.  We belonged to him, to be used or lent at his (or his mother’s) whim.  I was never sent to the master because I was his own child but I was, from time to time,  offered to visiting dignitaries or officials.  These men were not gentle or kind,  but fortunately, as I was not particularly beautiful or adept in bed,  my charms were not in high demand.   Eventually, I was completely ignored for such things.

All I knew about life beyond the walls was what some of the others,  including my mother, told me. For many, the outside world seemed more difficult,  full of poverty, back-breaking work, and starvation.  Almost all were young virgins when they were captured so they did not long for lost husbands or lovers or children.  Many were captives of war, and were grateful for the peace and plenty of their new circumstances.  But some were captured away from their families.  These girls found adjustment most difficult. They would weep and cry when they first arrived but in time they forgot their old lives and settled into the new. I was lucky because I had nothing to miss,  and because my mother was there to teach and protect me.

I did not consider my life bad or unfortunate.

When the weather turned warm, I enjoyed being outside in the courtyard with the others, working, gossiping.  Not all the women were embroiderers.  Some minded the children.  Some played instruments and sang. Some were dancers.  Some were ladies’ maids to the women of status.  Some of the favorite concubines  had only to keep themselves attractive. This was very important as it was her access to the master that gave her power.  Each of us had access to different parts of the household, and so each had different information.  By sharing what we knew, we could put together a bigger story.

Oh, the plots and rumors and intrigue that were discussed!

Some of the older women, longtime favorite concubines and lesser wives, those with more power and influence than I could ever hope for, were quite adept at grand manipulations. A carefully planted rumor, a well-told lie, a damning truth, whispered genially and sincerely in the right ear, all served to help accrue more power and influence.  Over the years, there was more intrigue and machinations than I can recount. There were poisonings and betrayals, false friendships and lies, all in the service of power and rank.  But my own ambition was never so great as some of the others.

When I was young, I was useless at that game but I observed and listened closely, and slowly, I learned the way it was played.

My first manipulation began accidentally when I befriended the youngest child of one of the lesser wives.  The nanny who minded her was dull and sullen and was too lazy to play with her. I could see that the child was bored so later, alone, I fashioned a small doll for her from scraps of blue silk, with eyes of fresh water pearls and tiny lapis beads, and a smile of garnets. This was not done with any specific plan in mind.  The girl seemed lonely and I felt sorry for her, so I made her a small gift using what I had at hand.  She was, after all, my sister (although this was not common knowledge among the other women.)

I gave it to her the next time I saw her.  She was delighted. And her nanny was pleased that someone else made an effort to entertain the child, relieving her of the burden of having to pay attention.

Several days later, when we were again all outside together, the girl came over to where I sat to watch me work.  She seemed fascinated by the idea of making designs with beads and thread.  As I worked, she listened raptly as I told her stories about fantastic creatures and faraway places, completely of my imagination.  I felt a kinship for her and although she did not know who I was,  she sensed the attachment.

Seeing us together, it occurred to the nanny that I was perhaps entertaining the child too well. She suspected that her position might be in jeopardy.  She called the child to come away from me but she was reluctant to go. In that brief moment, I sensed opportunity. I whispered to the girl to come see me again soon.  I’d have more stories for her.

Her nanny, by then, had become wary and prevented her from visiting with me. But the girl kept her eye on me.  I would smile and wave.  I would tell funny stories to the other girls my age to make them laugh, so the child would see this and feel she was missing the fun.

And one day, not long after, I was summoned by the girl’s mother and informed that I would now be her nanny.

And so, my rank among the women of the household increased.

The girl loved me because I devoted myself to her.  And I loved her, because, even though there was a great difference in status,  I knew we were blood. We shared many of the same features, and I brushed her long black hair and styled it like my own.

When she was grown enough to no longer need a nanny, she kept me close by making me her ladies’ maid. And so my rank increased again, as I was now privy to more important information, received firsthand, which made it more valuable.  Information was currency.  I could trade it for favors.

Eventually it came time for her to marry.  Her husband lived afar. Although she wanted me to come with her, I was still property of the household and her father would not give me to her. Both he and I understood that if I went with her,  her husband would be my new master,  and if he took me as his concubine,  as was his right,  it would cause her deep pain.

She did not see the danger of this new situation as I did.  I consoled her,  assuring her it was for the best.

We bid our tearful farewells.  She was both a child and a sister to me.  She was the only person I ever missed.  I only saw her once again, many years later, when she returned for her father’s funeral.  It was a sweet reunion.

By then, I had spent many years as a ladies’ maid to increasingly important wives,  my circumstances improving and my status growing.

I was a slave , but as a life,  it was better than many who live free.

——————

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

artwork: Kamil Aslanger  (I discovered this image a year after writing/channeling this post but it’s such a perfect image, one might think it was actually inspiration for this story. It was not.)

 

Haters Gonna Hate

Originally posted March 13, 2015

acid

Nak

My last living thought was of revenge. Not for one who had killed me, for I died of natural causes. Rather, I died of the slow poisonous desire for vengeance which had coursed through my veins for decades. This was my own doing. I could have let it go. I should have let it go. But instead I let it eat me up inside like acid.

He stole my life. His fame and success should have been mine. That is what I believed. He stole my ideas; he stole my relationships; he stole my chance at happiness. He alone derailed my life’s plan and I could not, would not, let it go.

He knew I hated him, but he paid me no mind. To him, I was a pathetic nobody. At worst, I was annoying, like a housefly, incapable of inflicting any real damage. He could have destroyed me as easily as a human hand can squash a bug, but he did not waste his effort. This, too, fueled my anger, for he did not even consider me a worthy opponent.

I wasted my entire life on hate. The taste of bile tainted every possibility of joy. And whose fault was that? Still, I refused to release it, even though all the damage was to me.

I know now I traveled the path I was destined to travel. If he had not taken from me what I believed to be mine,  I would have lost it another way. It was not meant for me to be a success this time.  This life was meant to teach me to conquer resentment and anger. It was for me to learn to be happy with what I had. It was meant for me to learn to move beyond disappointment and push through to joy. But I could not.

And so, I must do it again.

——————
Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-A

Adrift

 

 

NEW!

Gree

I can remember my final day so clearly.  It was a crisp winter day.  I walked home from school with my best friend,  as we usually did.  Her house was closer to the school than mine, and sometimes I stopped there for warm milk and a biscuit before plunging back out into the cold. Our family farm was about a half hour’s walk beyond hers and it was nice to have a little warmth and and a little sweet in my belly on my solo hike home.

I didn’t mind the walk.  Not usually.  I was used to walking in the cold.  Everybody did it.  The trick was bundling up well.  I enjoyed the bite of the wind on my cheeks; the way my nostrils stuck together as I inhaled the frosty air.

On that day,  her mother shooed me out quickly.  The sky was looking overcast and she wanted to be sure that I would be home before the weather turned bad.

I had gotten almost half the way home when a cold and bitter wind kicked up. It pushed against my tiny frame slowing my progress.  On a couple of occasions, I was forced to stop and wait until it let up because I could make no progress into the fierce gusts.  Once or twice, I had to hunker down and make myself as small as possible so as not to be buffeted about. The temperature had dropped and icy rain pelted my bare face.  It stung.

I was not enjoying that walk in the cold at all but I plowed ahead because I had no choice.

The rain turned to frozen snow and the world turned white.  Although I’d walked this route hundreds of times,  the weather had so obscured the landscape, I did not recognize where I was.  I could not distinguish the road from the field.  I drifted off the path and slipped into a drainage ditch, twisting my ankle. The pain was sharp and unrelenting.  I could barely put weight on my foot.

I continued walking because I had no choice.

I started to cry but the tears froze on my face.  There was no use feeling sorry for myself.

Under normal conditions, I would be have been home in another ten minutes.  In a short while, I could be in a hot bath, and then snuggled warm in my  own bed.  I pressed on, yet no house appeared.  Soon I realized I’d become lost and disoriented.  I started to panic. I knew I could not last much longer outside. I had no idea where I was or how far I was from home.

And then I saw a small hay shed by the side of the road.  It offered a modicum of shelter.  I limped over and crawled in. I could wait it out there.  It was no respite from the cold, but at least I was out of the wind and the snow, and I could rest my throbbing ankle. I pulled the hay bales close for a little warmth and fell asleep from exhaustion.

I know now they came out to look for me but the weather was too fierce and they were forced to turn back. When the snow stopped the next day, again they (and other neighbors) went out searching for me but of course I was not on my usual route and so they did not find me.

In the end, I wasn’t found by anyone who was looking for me.  I was discovered accidentally by the farmer who owned the shed. He found me three days later,  exactly where I’d fallen asleep, frozen to death.

——————

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

The Measure of a Man

first published July 2, 2016michelangelo_david

Ke

I was the youngest of four brothers. My father had been a great athlete in his youth and he expected all of us to travel the same path. From the time we were old enough to walk, we were encouraged to run and swim and climb and throw and fight and do all the things that strong, powerful, masculine men do.  There was no sympathy for or indulgence in weakness of any kind.

We were raised to carry on his legend by becoming  the kind of men other men admired. As children,  we were expected to be braver, smarter, and more well-liked than other boys. It was impressed upon us from the time we were very young we must never do anything to tarnish our family name or reputation. There must never be even a whiff of controversy or disagreeability about us. We were raised to be kind to those weaker than ourselves. We defended injustice when we saw it.  We were helpful to those in need.  We were generally peaceful but strong and able enough to win a fight should someone else throw the first punch. We were raised to be real men, good men, admirable men.

I never doubted that my father’s values were well-placed. His moral compass was infallible.  I understood his reasoning in everything.  I lived to make him proud of me. And he was proud of me.  I was handsome, popular, smart, a champion athlete. I didn’t have to be coerced to adopt his values. I did not stay the course merely to please my father.  It was obvious to me that this was the right and proper way to be.  I felt fortunate to have his guidance knowing that others floundered with no beacon to light the way.

When I was about 13 or 14, an uncomfortable stirring began to nag at the back of my mind.  Other boys my age were thinking about girls.  In fact, that’s all they thought about. I kept waiting for that same fascination to arise in me. I expected to wake up one morning and find myself as lust-driven as my classmates. I worried that I did not share this irresistible biological urge. I told myself I was just a late bloomer. Or maybe my glands were afflicted in some way and not producing enough hormones. Perhaps I needed to eat more masculine foods. (I began a diet heavy in red meat, certain that would solve the problem.)

Meanwhile, I kept a low profile. It was not in my nature to lie, so instead I was reticent and shy. I didn’t want anyone to examine me too closely, to ask too many questions. My athletic skills were valuable to the various teams I played on, but I rarely socialized with the boys outside of practice.

When I was 17, I started dating a girl in my class.  This was done for the sake of appearances; to stave off the inevitable questions.  I did not want to have to explain why I didn’t have a girlfriend.  The answer was too complex and I didn’t even understand it, myself.  The girl was also shy and from a religious family. Our relationship was respectful and chaste, which was ideal as neither of us were interested in anything sexual, each for our own reasons.

When my friends started bragging about their conquests, I held my tongue. Even if I had been having sex, I still would not have shared my exploits. Such behavior was unseemly. They grudgingly admired me because I didn’t kiss and tell.

Eventually, I went off to university, far from home, away from the inquisitive eyes of anyone who had any preconceived notions about me, where I could start again with no preconceived notions about myself.

I had long harbored suspicions about myself, and they haunted me.  Such thoughts were terrifying and when my mind alighted upon them, I quickly changed the mental subject.  Eventually, however, the feelings, the desires, the need,  were too big to deny.  They screamed and barked and howled.  They would not stop, would not be silenced. They could no longer be ignored.

Here was my dilemma: if I could not face the truth about myself, I was a coward, and that I could not abide.  But if my suspicions were correct, my life was a ruin.

But the truth could no longer be denied, and so it was there that I discovered what I was.

This knowledge ripped my sense of self right out from under me. It went against everything I’d ever believed I was, everything I’d spent my life preparing to be. I’d become that thing that brings shame on the family; that thing that can never be accepted; that thing that made a mockery of my father’s fine lessons in manhood.

I could not be my true self and remain part of my own family. They would never accept me as now knew I was. And now that I knew, I could not pretend to them to be otherwise. By deceit, I already put myself apart from them, even if they didn’t know.

And so, I was cast adrift with no moral anchor. What did it matter if I was brave and strong and true? I was still a mockery of a man.

But then, who could I be? I needed a new identity, a new way of being, a new skin. I tried on quite a few, but nothing felt comfortable. No matter who I tried to be, it all felt like a costume, a pretense, a role that wasn’t at all natural. I had been taught to be a certain kind of man, and now all those lessons were pointless.  What was left?  Who was I?  What was I?  I spent several wasted years adrift, searching but not finding the answers. I did things that, had they known, would have disgraced my family.  I was not always honest nor brave nor true.  Even crying filled me with shame.

I couldn’t be myself anymore and I couldn’t be anyone else, either.  I was nothing.  Nobody.  Nothing about me was true or real. There was no reason for me to exist.

And so, at 24, I hanged myself.  I did not leave a note. I did not reveal my secret. The act of suicide, itself, I knew, would be shameful enough.

The pain was ultimately intolerable but from this side I can appreciate the understanding that has followed from it. This loss of identity, the complete denial of ego, and the accompanying torment provided the most valuable lessons I have ever been shown in any lifetime.

There needs to be a balance between feeling the importance of the self and realizing how unimportant we really are.

——————

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

Love Me, Love Me Not

First published March 4, 2015

sad marble angel

Agat

I was a disaster at love. My relationships never lasted more than a few years. I fell in love with the notion of love and never saw my partners as they really were.  I was interested in others only as long as they allowed me to feel within a narrow spectrum of emotion; as long as they didn’t force me to consider my own responsibility too closely. When my feelings began to stray beyond those parameters,  I might become angry or demanding or hurt or fed up.

None of my behavior was consistent with truly loving someone. I was never willing to stick around to do the work.

I thought I was doing the work. I thought I was being the mature, sensible one. I believed that what I wanted was within reason, and within my right to ask.  I wanted them to behave in the way which I believed was the correct way to behave. I wanted them to reciprocate my feelings.  To feel as I did. Respond as I did. Desire as I did. Love as I did.

I had lofty concepts of love, which, to my great heartbreak, no one else seemed to share.

When they finally would not or could not live by my standards, they would either leave or gradually stop making any effort until I ceased asking; until I abandoned my feelings and went away. This process was not without drama, which was mainly my own doing. It was, ironically, the very drama they’d been trying to avoid. It was the behavior which always proved them right in the end.

I believed myself to be loving yet tragically unlovable when in fact, I was quite lovable but tragically unloving.

——————

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

The Vulture

 

NEW!

Und

Have you ever watched a vulture swooping in on carrion? They do not kill, not usually, but they can smell imminent death. They circle, waiting, ready to feast when their next meal takes its final breath.

You could say I was a human vulture. I removed corpses from various circumstances of unfortunate, unexpected death, and transported them to the morgue This was not a job many people desired, and those who did this work usually lived outside society as outcasts.  Maybe it was because humans don’t like to be reminded of their own mortality.  Or perhaps that’s putting the chicken before the egg.  Maybe it was that people like me, who’d been ostracized their entire lives, simply felt more comfortable among the deceased. The dead did not insult or bully or disappoint the way the living did.

The pay was meager. Barely enough to hold body and soul together.  Eventually I became emboldened; when the opportunity presented, I took for myself what the dead no longer needed: a jeweled ring, a gold necklace, a purse full of money.

After many years, by virtue of having been around the longest, I attained a modicum of seniority among the handful of others in my line of work. By then, I could sense which round trip to the morgue would be worth my while and which I could safely assign to the others.  I could sniff out the death of a rich man in a bed not his own; the demise of a lady of some means who happened to be in town when the Angel of Death plucked her from among the living. These poor souls did not have the good fortune to die in the comfort of their own bed surrounded by loved ones. And if they were doing something sinful or illegal, all the better.

By the time the deceased’s family claimed the body, it had been through so many hands, it was impossible to say where or when the valuables had disappeared. I was careful to travel far away to sell what I had taken, lest suspicion fall on me.

I did not get rich from this enterprise but it allowed me a few small comforts that I could not have afforded otherwise — enough fuel to keep warm in winter; it kept my belly full with meat and ale; a new pair of shoes when the old ones wore out. I survived because they had died. They didn’t need their worldly possessions any longer.  I, however, could make good use of them.

We weren’t so different, the dead and me.  I was just holding on to life a bit more tenaciously

——————

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

 

The Hand of a Stranger

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Var

The trouble came when I was quite young.  My father was taken away when I was about three and he never came back. My mother cried for a long time, but I never knew where he was or why he did not return.

These were times of famine and political unrest, difficult for everyone, but especially for a widow with a small child.

Eventually, it became too dangerous to remain where we were.  Not just us, but for many, many people.  So, when I was about six, we packed up the little we had and left the countryside for a large town.  It was far away – many weeks walking.

We were a miserable lot, most of us near starving, cold, filthy, exhausted, frightened. The fields we passed were mostly bare.  Drought had destroyed the crops.  But if we scavenged carefully, we might find something still edible – a buried root, a struggling vine, insects.  If we were lucky, perhaps a small animal.

We slept outside, wrapped in blankets, huddled together for warmth, or in makeshift tents.

One morning, after many days walking, my mother could not rouse herself.  Her eyes were sunken and glazed, and she struggled to breathe.  “Go with the others,” she told me.  ” Survive. Be brave. Be strong. Be good.”

I cried and begged her get up.  I was terrified. I refused to leave her until some others pulled me away from her and folded me back into the caravan, where I was carried away in the tide.

Now, not only was I starving, filthy, exhausted, cold, and frightened,  I was also alone in my mourning,  with new things to worry and be frightened about.

A few people were kind to me but they had their own worries and they could not make my problems, theirs.  Occasionally one of them shared with me from their own meager food supply — a scrap of a scrap, here and there. But most of them had to feed their own families.  An orphaned boy was not their problem.

Finally, after many, many days, we arrived in a large town. The local people did not like us country folk. They didn’t know us, didn’t trust us, didn’t want us around to threaten their livelihoods with cheap labor and a need for charity.

Some of the people in our group had family there. They, at least, had safe places to go.  Some of them had skills that enabled them to find paying work, although it was usually grudgingly. The others only had their backs and remaining strength to offer. They struggled to survive, but at least they were adults.

But me?  I was an orphan with nobody to watch out for me, nobody to care if I lived or died.  But I’d promised my mother I’d survive and I’m sure it was that determination that kept me alive. I begged on the street,  ate discarded fruit and vegetables left on the ground after the market closed, slept against doorways to protect against the worst of the elements.  I was usually chased away from several before I found somewhere to settle in for the night.

One evening, I curled up in front of a small shop that sold pots and pans and other such housewares. The store owner came out and looked me over. I picked myself up,  sure I was about to be kicked along my way.   But he took compassion on me and brought me into his shop, which was warm!  I hadn’t been warm in months!  He give me a piece of bread and some soup that was heating on the wood stove. I was so grateful, I couldn’t say anything but thank you, bless you, thank you.

He allowed me to sleep inside,  enjoying the remaining residual warmth of the fire when there was nothing left but embers. The next morning, he gave me some fresh bread and tea for breakfast, and asked me to sweep the street out front, which I did gladly, with gratitude.  He asked me to climb up the ladder to fetch things he couldn’t reach, and scoot down low to pull things out from under the counter.

He was an older man,  maybe the age of my grandfather (whom I barely remembered). I learned later that his wife and child had died many years before, and he was alone.  He seemed as happy for my company as I was for his.

As we both got older, I got stronger and he got weaker, and he came to rely on me even more.  I was there for him in his old age.  There with him when he was too infirm to leave his bed.  I sad beside him,  and held his hand as he crossed over.

The store passed into my hands.   I eventually found a wife and we had two sons, who took the business from me when I passed on many decades later.

I never forgot his kindness to me and for as long as I lived, I endeavored to pass that kindness on to others.

——————

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

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