Light or Darkness

After I sat down across from Camp who was pawing his silly gadget we commented on the weather, the sorry state of the US body politic, the Russian aggression on the Ukrainian border and the ongoing crisis of the Covid pandemic. So many people dying prematurely and unnecessary and so much trouble in the world.

‘Are you afraid of death?’ I asked Camp, off the cuff, like asking him about what he had for dinner.

He gave me a funny look, took a sip and then said: ‘I’m not afraid of death, just of dying. Suffering and loss of physical functions and memory are what I’m scared about. Death itself, the grim reaper, could be a welcome sight, almost a relief I think.’

‘What about after death? Aren’t you afraid of what comes after?’

‘Like what? Heaven or hell? 

‘Or eternal darkness,’ I said. ‘Lights out, show over.’

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Life & Beer talk

“Sue told me that her husband is very sick and has been in intensive care for a few weeks,” Clare said just before I left to walk down to the pub. “I know he’s Camp’s friend and I’m sure he’s aware of it. Be easy on him,” Clare said, “it’s not a good situation.”

“I guess we’re lucky to be healthy,” I said.

“Luck is arbitrary but we eat well thanks to your cooking,” she said, “and as the saying goes: Every day spend some time looking after your health otherwise you’ll spend a lot of time spending on your illness later in life.”

“Well, that’s a cliché,” I said. “Life’s a lottery.”

I walked along the quiet waterfront and tried to enjoy the beautiful fall weather, the changing colours, which were also indicative of the cyclic nature lo life. Nature takes its course but we don’t like it if it attacks us personally with nasty cell mutations and painful malfunctions.

Camp was sitting at our table, intent on his smartphone, which he swiftly pocketed when he saw me approach.

Without my prompting he broached the subject of his sick friend. “I visited a good friend today, who has been in the hospital for the past 3 months and it doesn’t look like he’s coming out any time soon,” he said as I sat down at our usual table overlooking the harbour and Keats Island in the near distance.

“Clare mentioned him to me. What’s wrong with him? Not the c-word I hope?”

“No, it’s not cancer. Fact is he is deathly ill, hooked up to a multiple of beeping, flashing, dripping and ticking machines. It has a definite Frankenstein feeling.”

“It’s sounds miserable,” I said.

“Miserable is an understatement. If it was me I would be furious, like they’ve cheated me out of dying. Instead of a medical miracle I would feel more like a human catastrophe. ‘Death by instalments’. ”

Go easy on Camp, Clare said. What does that mean? “Maybe I should go talk to my doctor and make sure that wouldn’t happen to me,” I said,  “maybe put something in writing. We plan everything from buying a car to vacations, why not plan how we would like to die?”

“It’s not something people want to talk about, not when they’re healthy. Death is still a taboo, sort of right next to erectile dysfunction, or a bad case of flatulence, or the plunging stock market. Not exactly welcome conversation topics around the water cooler or dinner table,” Camp said, “but you’re right, it would be smart to have a plan in place, just in case.”

We both looked out at the sparkling waters of Howe Sound, each with our own thoughts. Vicky appeared at the table and took one long look at us. “Somebody die?” she asked, intuitive as she is.

“Not yet,” Camp said, sighing and shaking his head.

I just remembered what I was going to show Camp and dug my cell phone out against our unspoken rule. “I just got this video from my nephew about their four months old baby girl. What a delight and joy this young life is bringing to her parents and all those who meet her,” I said. “In a way it’s the complete opposite of your friend’s condition.”

Vicky put two fresh pints down and squealed with delight at the baby pictures. “That’s why you two guys need to enjoy every day, every moment and every beer,” she said.

“Tell that to my friend,” Camp said, trying not to sound too cynical. “To him life as he knew it is over while for this little girl it’s just the beginning, while you and I my friend,” pointing his finger at me, “are just two spectators, passing through this vale of tears and laughter and enjoying the movie of life.”

“So much for this week’s episode of ‘One Life, two beers’,” I said, trying to maintain a modicum of humour. “We never even touched the week’s politics.”

“What a relief!” Camp said, raising his glass. “To life.”