I am scared of dying. Most humans are. We are unlike any other animal. We perceive in a manner no other animal does that we will one day die. We know it is coming. It’s just a matter of when.
When I was younger, I would have told you I did not fear dying. I doubt that has ever been true. Death seemed a stranger until I was barely seventeen years old in 1966. Hollis Capps was killed in a vehicle accident that was truly tragic. Driving home out farm to market road 58 south of Lufkin after working a graveyard shift at the paper mill, he was killed by someone’s momentary lack of good sense. His wife, Martha Bridges Capps, was sitting at home a few miles away, with his breakfast waiting for him.
Suddenly, death became real to me. I spent my first night in Lufkin October of 1954, sleeping on the floor of Hollis and Martha’s home on Highway 103 East. I was five years old. Now Hollis was gone. How could life go on? But it did.
By the next year, there would be local boys I knew who were killed in Vietnam. Death was making its way into my life too often. When Bennie Sisson was killed in the spring of 1968, it seemed far too real. Death was galloping into my life. I would join the military before spring ended, and three years later be stationed in Taipei, Taiwan, where I would get the phone call which would change my life.
In July 1971, Death walked up and punched me in the face. The call from “the world” advised me that my father had terminal cancer, and that it was imperative I get home as soon as possible. The Air Force was awesome about it. Three days later, I was flying back home to see my dad before he died.
When I got home, it seemed impossible he was dying. He looked normal. We joked. We talked. We had some fun for a short while. Then he started chemo and the fun was all gone. So was talking or doing anything worthwhile. Chemo or not, he died within weeks. I hated it like I had never hated anything. I hated Death. I hated God for not saving him.
We had the funeral. A month passed. I came home one night after working and going to college for night classes to find the movie “Brian’s Song” on the television. About a football player who died of cancer far too young, it had a song which became a hit. When I watched the end of that TV movie, I bawled uncontrollably. For months after that, I couldn’t listen to that song and remain unemotional.
I had a fourteen month old niece who died in 1978, after having never been anywhere but a hospital. That was a kick in the gut from Death. We placed her in a tiny casket and buried her next to my dad.
Death calls me back to Lufkin several times a year. Someone I know has died. Someone I love has died. The pain of the close family is always palpable. I feel it, and I feel their agony. It is a reminder of close ones I have lost. But I also find some joy in the memories of the departed, the stories we tell about them, the things they cherished which we honor. Often, however, the early death of a loved one does not make much sense.
Even if our loved ones live a full life, we miss them upon death. I know my time will come. I hope I go out well. Don’t let me die in a hospital. I want to die at home.
© 2012, Jim “Pappy” Moore,
All Rights Reserved.
Jim “Pappy” Moore is a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home. firstname.lastname@example.org