Now that Breaking Bad is over, I have to watch other shows. Last I tried a Woody Allen biography, on Netflix. The first hour was fairly interesting, detailing early life, Brooklyn before car traffic, the cinemas, the first marriage... but it sort of drooped off after that with the analysis of every show he made and the virtues of every star involved. But this struck me: when he was five years old, he realized that everyone has to die. This realization put a damper on everything for him at the time, or maybe always. -- What is any pleasure? -- You are going to die. -- How can you enjoy anything? -- You are going to die.
It makes me wonder when in life I first felt similarly severely chastened by a fact or a thought. I am sure that I was older than five when first something seemed extremely poignant to me. I think it was when my cat died, speaking of death. Maybe this connects. She had eaten some rat poison in the neighbors yard and was bleeding, dying ever so slowly. My father soon dispatched her, in the basement, saving us all the misery. But what I could not forget was that even though the cat was suffering, she would still purr when we stroked her. She could lay dying and still purr. It seemed astounding to me.
We loved the cat, and it was also, in her feline way, attached to us. My hand was still an instrument of comfort and petting. All my life I have wanted grace in suffering. As in the Paul Gerhardt songs, we submit to God's leading and gracious will. We will not curse God, like Job's wife suggested to him. Though he slay me, I will trust him. This is a gift. I will not be able to do it on my own. I have always wanted a "good" death, as they say.
When our son died, my husband said: this is the kind of day we have been going to church for all this time. Someone said that this was about the best reply to tragedy that they have ever heard. Indeed, it was a good reply. We can enjoy life and still be ready to die, Woody.