“Intimations of Mortality: Quarantine Contemplations—2”

I did “duck and cover” atomic bomb drills in elementary school and didn’t understand the relevance when we lived close enough to a “first strike zone” that we wouldn’t see it coming.  Tornado and fire drills were commonplace but understandable.

My parents were always there, constant reminders that love persists.  My great-grandparents were the first leavings.  Then my grandparents.  Too recently my parents joined them, and all-too-soon my wife of forty years.

Now I smile behind my mask, but I’m sure there is fear in my eyes…the grocery carts are too close together, going the wrong way, and there is no mask on that indifferent face.

I cherish each distant moment with my children and grandchildren, but the news tells me that almost seventy is almost surely dead at any time.

The icons of my life—important historical figures, icons of stage and screen and music and art—are leaving only their memories almost daily.

We planted flowers the other day.  The same places we planted last year.  The tomatoes are growing.  The beans are starting to come up.  Just like they did the last three years.  We replant.

A robin has built a nest in the birch tree high above us.  I don’t know if she was here last year, but there was one….

We picked up some deer antler sheds last week.  Another year’s growth discarded.  The grass was covering them quickly.  Soon they would have been overgrown with new growth, a forgotten memory.

I saw some forgotten pictures of my mother yesterday.  She was such a beautiful young woman…she didn’t get to be an old woman.  I see her in my niece and her son.

Excursions away from home are both exhilarating and frightening.  We need plants.  We need to take gifts for Mother’s Day and birthdays and just see faces from a safe distance.  Buying paint seems like invading a plague ward.  We come home and sterilize everything we’ve touched and wash away everything but our humanity.

I am grateful for the connections.  I scroll through thousands of pictures that I’ve stored (prints and digital pieces) and they remind me of the myriad moments that I have lived and loved.  They will make a great reminiscence.

This afternoon I spent some time revising my last wishes.  We’ve been planning, off and on, so that our children don’t have to make decisions that shouldn’t be theirs.  I read today’s death toll, and our preparations just made sense.

Daily I am reminded of the presence of endings.  With every breath I am reminded of beginnings.  Our mortality is simply a collection of moments that we have lived…if we’re lucky.

Dr. Dan


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