COLUMN: Perry Bergson — Aug. 5, 2014

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Perry Bergson
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Perry Bergson

Someone very close to the Bergson family passed away on Friday.

Cancer was the culprit and it was always a battle that this person wasn’t going to win. The man was accepting of his fate and, by the stories being relayed to us, was ready for whatever came next.

His family was struggling, however, because it’s sometimes more difficult to be the people left behind than it is to be the person who is worn out and ready for the great beyond.

We were hoping to get home in time to see him again but there were a lot of weeks and days and minutes and seconds before we could get there.

We never made it and now he’s gone.

He was a vigorous fellow with a big laugh so it wasn’t easy to imagine the shrunken man who wasn’t recognized in the hospital by a longtime friend recently.

His passing and the days leading up to it had me in a reflective mood lately as a result.

I’m a fan of the foul-mouthed director Kevin Smith and his movies. He also does a podcast that I’ve listened to virtually since the day he started it.

A lot of it is silly fun but Smith has a rather well-developed fear of death that informs a good part of his philosophy. He accepts that it’s going to happen but the thought still fills him with dread.

In fact he suggests that a big part of what we do every day is just an attempt to deflect our thoughts from the paralyzing notion that one day we too will be gone.

Another of my favourite funnymen, Woody Allen, once suggested that “I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

The topic has actually been on my mind off and on since my dog Luke’s death eight months ago.

I’m just finally at a point when I can talk about him without tearing up.

I struggle with the fact that I think about him more often than some of the people in my life who I have loved and lost. It may be in part because his ghosts -- and I don’t mean that in the cheesy pop culture way -- are everywhere in our home and neighbourhood.

He used to sleep in that part of our bedroom. He led me down that back lane on many early morning walks. That’s where he lay in the yard.

It’s impossible not to think about him because the memories of the last 18 months of his life are all around me.

I have a friend who lost her longtime partner after decades of marriage and I can see that she’s still adrift. They were a couple that had their adventures together, and while she remains a vigorous person, it’s clear that she misses having a companion to share her time.

She’s learned that the same activity alone is not what it once was with him.

Very few couples go at exactly the same time so one of the two people sitting on the couch watching TV will one day face the prospect of doing it on their own.

I know another lady who had never paid a bill in her life because her husband always took care of it. When he passed suddenly, leaving holes in her life and that of a great many people around her, she faced a tremendous transition to a new reality.

Other men and woman that I knew in similar circumstances found ways to carry on and even thrive; I wish that I had been old enough and intimate enough to ask how they were really doing.

I honestly worry about some people because it seems like one starts where the other ends. The concept of one without the other is virtually unthinkable.

So I try not to think about it. A wise person once told me not to go borrowing trouble, so I try to leave that thought in the future, where it lives.

I know that my day will come too and I’m OK with that. I hope it’s not too soon but it’s likely beyond my control.

Years ago a man died walking down the street when a large pole fell on him. Apparently a crew had been digging in the area and the ground around the pole had loosened.

I thought a lot about how life had conspired to put that man in that exact spot at that exact second for a pole to kill him.

How many things could have happened in his day to put him two seconds ahead or two seconds behind? Instead, he was in the exact spot that he couldn’t be.

He didn’t tie up his shoes before he left the house knowing it would be the last time. He didn’t enjoy a final meal. He didn’t know it was a last call to loved ones.

And then a pole fell on him.

Different people can explain his death based on their beliefs, or even their lack of beliefs. Was it a divine plan, fate or just terrible luck?

Each of us has our own answer to that question based on all of the many experiences and thoughts that we’ve had.

I struggle with it. Depending on the day you ask me, and the mood I’m in, I could answer it any of those three ways.

Regardless, he’s gone.

So are my dog and my grandparents and many other family members. I’ve lost friends who were too young to vote and others who never had a chance to grow a grey hair.

I’ve been to lots of funerals and I know that a great many lie ahead.

Some people have a real gift at easing the burden that knowledge can create.

Very few people put it better than Alfred Lord Tennyson, who once wrote “If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk in my garden forever.”

It’s a sentiment that I think serves just as beautifully in life as it does in death.

May all of us find a measure of comfort as we walk in our personal gardens. The flowers -- and the memories -- are beautiful.

 

Perry Bergson is the Daily Herald’s managing editor. You can reach him at 765-1302 or by email at perry.bergson@paherald.sk.ca

Organizations: Daily Herald

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