He’s Dead Now …
A while ago I was standing on the tee box with some buddies and punctuated a funny story about an old golfing acquaintance with “He’s dead now, but … .” It got a laugh and the story went on. “He’s dead now” got the same laugh the first time I said it, about 10 years ago, and I didn’t think much about it. But this last time was different.
I realized I’d been qualifying stories with something like “He’s dead now” more often as the years have gone by. Plaques and trees honoring deceased players are appearing on our home course. One of those plaques honors the guy that was my regular partner when I first started playing here. I was one of the younger members of my original golf group and started playing with them about 18 years ago. So many of the regulars from that group are now hitting the ball around that great golf course in the sky that the group died out and was reconstituted with a new membership and playing format.
I guess this shouldn’t come as a real surprise. Time passes, people age, and death comes to us all. But seeing your friends fall away is a stark reminder of how precious every day is. I’ve been trying to put my finger on why the current fixation on “Good riddance to 2020” has been bugging me, and I think “He’s dead now” is a clue.
It’s been hard to joyfully carpe some of the diems we’ve had to deal with this year. There were quite a few days that I wanted to seize by the throat and squeeze until it apologized. But I’m not willing to throw away a year of life. I’m not very happy with a lot of things that happened in 2020, but I’m glad 2020 was here and I was there for the show. The alternative is worse.
I don’t enjoy the mask-on mask-off dance. I don’t like standing 6 feet apart from others and trying to figure out what local, state, or national ordinances are in effect. I mourn the lives lost to COVID, the business and financial distress many have suffered. The political season was and still is a dumpster fire. The world seems ever more full of “experts” eager to tell me what to do and what to think, just in case I wasn’t aware of my hidden foibles, biases and problems.
But I’m still here, my family, friends, and our little town are still here, and daily life goes on. Our corner of the Texas Hill Country is doing better than a lot of other places. Our local leaders are working hard to minimize governmental interference while elected leaders elsewhere grasp for power and control. Good things have happened in the midst of the storm. Many things have changed in my personal schedule, but what I’ve lost has been replaced with so many new activities that I can’t possibly do everything I want to do.
When Horace said “Carpe diem” he wasn’t saying “Have a nice day.” He was saying “Seize the day.” Grab the day that you find yourself in and do your best to make something of it. It’s the only day you have. That was true for Horace in the first century BC and was just as true for us in 2020. And it will be true again in 2021.
And maybe when they preface a story about you with “He’s dead now” it will be a story worth telling.
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I’ve experienced some of the same discomfort with end-of-2020 musings. In my case, it’s the obvious longing for a tabula rasa — the hope that a new year will begin as a slate wiped entirely clean of everything that went before. There are going to be a lot of disappointed people on January 2, when they realize that politics, the pandemic, and the complications associated with both still are around.
That’s one reason I enjoy graveyards like the ones you’ve pictured here. The so-called “memorial gardens,” with their identical markers and prim vases, are a sad version of a tabula rasa, in the sense that they’ve been wiped clean of everything that gave the people buried there a unique identity. (I was especially taken with the squirrel in the first photo!)
On the other hand, the card I received this year from Copano Bay Publishing had a tongue-in-cheek, perfectly Texan greeting that did bring a smile and a nod of agreement. It said, “Dear 2020: Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.”
I like graveyards like this for the same reason – the people are truly memorialized, not just named and dated. This particular graveyard has many personalized graves like the ones pictured and also has old graves going back into the 1800s. You would have also like the squirrel that followed me around as I toured the cemetery. I frequently didn’t see it while I was on site but it kept popping up in photos when I got back home and downloaded the card.
And I like the Copano Bay sentiment. It’s short, clever, and has no expectations for the future. Just a simple “Go away.”