It's fair to say I've always been "death-haunted." Who isn't? Death looms over us. Always. Death never takes a holiday. Death is relentless.
An Elder in the neighborhood has died. One day he was there, the next day gone.
He was a fixture on the local scene. Always propped up at the coffeehouse, a stack of books at his table. Aquinas, Dostoyevski, Homer. Always a weighty tome. Always reading three or four books simultaneously.
It was almost ridiculous. So much serious reading. A rabid reader. Reading voraciously, as if he was looking for something. And he needed to find it, soon!
Rumor has it that he was a defrocked priest or wayward monk. His speech was filled with phrases from the Bible. Lonely. A loner. A loner that everyone knew. For the longest time we would nod to each other, but never talk. I used to joke that he was my Nemesis.
Why my Nemesis? I can't explain. Something about the way he looked at me. I imagined I saw contempt in his hollow, far-seeing gaze. I imagined he could see through me, he could see that I didn't believe the things he believed.
After the longest time, many years of silent witness, we finally did speak to each other. And found that we had lots we could talk about. We found we were both obsessed with the big questions. Always.
I remarked, that I was a former Catholic, and I quipped "I no longer practice, I already know how." He laughed at the line, but his reply to me was weighty, full of contempt and hard-earned judgement: "Arrogance."
That was a good conversation.
Death. Every death counts. Another death, and counting...
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