Thursday, December 31, 2020

Endings and Beginnings


We think that a New Year, our artificial numbering of the orbits of the sun since the possible birth of a son of a god plus a couple of days, is significant. That we have to stay up until midnight (in our time zone?) to "see it in." Our mayor has ordered that bars and restaurants cut it short for a 10:30p.m. curfew as COVID-19 surges in our community. The state has sued the city for trying to enforce this order. 

There are real events in time, birth and death, and sunrise and sunset. A year and its seasons. But we arbitrarily label them to give us a sense of control and order. So tomorrow is no different than today. Except that it's time to worry about taxes. To wind up our bookkeeping. To write a different number at the end of the thing we call a date. We try to wrap it up in the media with lists of deaths, lists of bests, etc.

The COVID-19 Pandemic does not respect your new calendar or planner. It surges on. And that has made me realize, more than ever, that there are no magic dates or deadlines except the natural ones. 

Since the pandemic we often drive somewhere and walk around outside, keeping away from people. We have walked in a cemetery a few miles away quite a bit. In the photo, FFP (my husband) looks at the simple headstones for his parents. The space to his right is ours. There isn't room for two coffins (no double stacking here, unlike where my parents are buried). We will allegedly be cremated and placed there. We have talked during the last months of isolation about buying a marker. But, perhaps, we won't even have one. 

There isn't much real significance to the day of your death. We arbitrarily assign it based on our system. My mother's day of death was August 28, 2002. August 28 was her younger sister's birthday. We cling to significance, though. I once read a book on probability that said that the chance a person died in the quarter after their birthday was much higher than the 1/4 you might expect. As if people wanted to and in some cases did will themselves to pass that marker. 

We don't age by years, though. We age by bits and drabs and tiny insults. We give the arrival of a new year an artificial power. Whereas the actual day of birth and death are significant events, their anniversaries are not, really, except in our brains. 

I am not religious, but my parents were. I put this bible verse on my dad's obituary. 

"A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth." Ecclesiastes 7:1

While we celebrate anniversaries of days and the flipping of the calendar, anniversaries are our arbitrary triggers of memory. 

No comments: