Or: A Fictional Conversation About (Not-So-)Fictional Events.
My uncle-in-law passed away today. Or is it yesterday? The time is somewhere between night and day and I am hovering in my thoughts, trying to think of something to do rather than succumb to sleep. My heart is somewhere in the deep, like the ocean that surrounds the little island I am on this week.
And so, I call my friend, Ludwig.
He is an older gentleman, sure, but keeps the same sleep schedule as me most nights. Most of our conversations happen at night, after all, deep in the confines of the cerebral twilight of a dark sky. Something like that.
“Speaking of twilight,” I tell Ludwig over the phone, “my husband’s uncle passed away today.”
I can hear Ludwig nod over the phone, if that is even possible. I continue.
“Death is a strange thing, isn’t it? My husband says to celebrate their life and yet sadness coincides with death. It is the nature of it.”
Ludwig counters with the fact that there are so many factors to our ideas of it, of life and death. There is no nature to it, after all, other than it is a fact of life. Life precedes death. What is after that is a mystery. My husband is right, I think, because he does not think death a bad thing necessarily.
“Is it that we feel guilty for surviving?” I ask Ludwig, somewhat wishing cellular phones had coiled cords for my fingers to play with. “Or is it that we wish for the company that is now no longer available for us to choose?”
Ludwig scoffs and tells me I’m overthinking it. Look closer to the surface, he says. Look at how we’ve defined it, the event, the fact, the reality. I consider the idea of social learning again.
“It is painful, though. Isn’t it? Death, I mean?” I ask. Whether it’s rhetorical or not, I’m not sure.
He sighs and his voice is gentle. He tells me of a friend he had that had passed away suddenly, while he had been gone (just as I am now). It had pained him greatly as well. I try to tell him that it’s not necessarily pain that I feel and he tells me that he knows better. Why else would I have called him? (Touché, I tell him.)
“How did you deal with it, then?” I ask and Ludwig gives another sigh, this one larger and heavier. He tells me that he had considered suicide. But, he interrupts me before I can say anything, that was a different time and a different situation. “It is not death that is the problem.”
I ruminate for a while, chewing my bottom lip as there is a bubble of silence that arises from the ocean floor. Ludwig tells me that it is fine to mourn, that it is not abnormal. Pain is also a part of life. There is a pain to surviving the ones we love.
“I did not know him very well,” I try to explain. “He was a good man, though.”
But he had a good life. Ludwig knows this before I say it. Why else would I be thinking so much on it?
He (Ludwig) reminds me that every time before, I did not mourn until days after, sometimes only until during or after the funeral. He’s seen it once before and knows of the other times as well. He just wants me to be prepared this time. He is, after all, a friend. Of course, none of my other friends know this about me. Only Ludwig (and my husband, of course).
I sit at the edge of the bed and ask Ludwig if he can sit and chat with me when I return to Connecticut. Of course, he says. Sometimes all anyone needs is someone to listen.
Ludwig stays on the phone with me for a while longer, reminiscing about the past. It is nice. We talk about Dostoevsky. I tell Ludwig he is Father Zosima, his favorite character. He laughs and I sheepishly say that makes me Alyosha, my favorite character. I hear a breath of air and I see, in my mind’s eye, Ludwig smiling. He tells me that I’ve always wanted to be Alyosha.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, sunlight above the depths.