“Death steals everything except our stories.”
–Jim Harrison, “Larson’s Holstein Bull“
Jim Harrison snuck up on me during an episode of No Reservations. Even story tellers preach. Jim said that death is the final arbiter of our lives–death, the bookend of human possibilities.
My grandmother was a recovered alcoholic lying in a hospice bed. She spoke hope and glory, craved it. She waited more patiently than Jim Harrison’s dead cat. When she traveled home on the footpath of her final breath, I think she found that death stole nothing. Death gave her new birth, filled her with eternal possibilities.
Grandpa Haines was a World War II veteran. He remembered beaches thick with brother’s blood, soft as velvet, he said. He took cover behind fallen soldiers. One night in the fifties he ended up naked and lost on a bus to Houston. They said it was post-traumatic stress and gave him Valium, which helped. When he finally gave up his own ghost, I watched peace wash over him like nothing I’d ever seen. Veils were made to be torn.
Maybe it’s true, “Death waits inside us for a door to open.” Creaky. Slowly. Opening to a vacuum that steals air, flesh, and time. But when I walk through, I hope to find life, love, and peace. To hear “well done” and know that Larson’s Holstein Bull gores ironically, petty thief that it is.
Oh death, where is your sting?