Monday, November 2, 2015

Ponderings on Death, Life, and Luck: Is it All Attitude?

HALLELUJAH LIFE (art (c) by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement. 
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
-Mary Oliver, excerpt from "When Death Comes"

He answered my knock on the Midtown restaurant's locked door. He put the money down that he was counting before he opened the cafe's doors for lunch. Leaving the cash register open, he moved towards me smiling, only a grin that Ian could offer the world. He hugged me, wrapping me in his thin arms, punctuating his actions and words with laughter.

GOBSMACKED. I was gobsmacked with his news that he and his wife were on a "death watch." He announced he was going to die in the next twelve months. His colon cancer that had been diagnosed two years ago had now spread to his liver, and he wasn't going to do life-extending chemo anymore. 

Three years had passed since I last saw this ex-patriot from the UK, the man who had lived down the hallway from me at Roane Oak Apartments in Little Five Points in the 1990's. Briefly, Ian Adamson and I had journeyed down the road of life together. I had always appreciated the joy he expressed about being alive. He was in Mary Oliver's words "the bride married to amazement" and the bridegroom taking the world into his arms.
Even at this moment on his "death watch," he still proclaimed amazement at being alive. "I'm so lucky," he said to me. "Some people die suddenly. I've been able to know I'm dying. I've had such a good life." I felt suspended in the air, trying to grasp the mysteriousness that surrounded us. Death. Life. Luck....
We reminisced briefly about our Savannah road trip and experience at a hole-in-the-wall bar with a cast of characters that included a Korean woman manager stretched out asleep across a red vinyl booth at the front of the bar, a midget who wanted quarters for the Juke Box, and a man who asked to buy my underwear for $20. I often think I imagined all of this and the sex worker who we chatted with while she sat at the bar waiting for her next client at the hotel across the street. 
HOLE-IN-THE-WALL Savannah Bar. (photo by Ian)

That was a colorful moment in time. I have no doubt that Ian has strung an entire strand of odd and real experiences in his short 54 years. His confidence about having had enough "life" and that that life had been "fun," left me filled with a painful sweetness

I have been pondering in the days since about losing him and all the other wonderful people in my life, who have already died--Kaye Lovvorn, my father, Oxford Stroud, Betty Breyer, Jeannette Fransden, Sally Wylde, Melissa Walker, Chantal Gadd, Thomas Schowalter, to only name a few.

What about my life? Could I smile like Ian about my imminent death were I to know it was coming? Is it all about attitude? Is there luck involved? How do we make our time here real, bold, and fun?

When it's over, I don't want to wonder 
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world. 
-Mary Oliver, excerpt from "When Death Comes"
That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me and tell me what your ponderings on DEATH and LIFE are. Are you a bride married to amazement? What is your attitude about death, life, and luck?
IAN and HALLELUJAH in Savannah

AUGUST 31st, 2016
I am grieved to learn that Ian passed away on August 11, 2016, without my having seen him again. I will attend his memorial on September 1st only a block away from where we met at Roane Oaks Apartments in Little Five Points. 
So like Ian! Ianfest to celebrate his life. Click here to read his obituary.


  1. I have often wondered if it were better to know about your death hour or if it should be left to chance. I am still undecided but sure one of these days I will have a decision for better or worse. I enjoyed reading this serendipitous piece you've but missed when written. Memories of Tristan!...What wonderful memories.

  2. Yes Darlene! Thank you for commenting on and reflecting about my memories of Tristan. It seems that part of life is death and learning to savour life all the more because we cannot control the time of our death.