There once was a man who was worried. He didn’t worry so much about his next meal, or if he had clothes or a roof over his head. No. This worry was a deeper worry. A soulful worry. The man worried he didn’t have enough time. Enough time to spend with those he cared about. That someday all the people he knew and loved would be gone. Consigned to the fate that all things are fated to. He worried that someday would be the last day that he would walk out of his grandparent’s house able to count them amongst the living. And knew someday they would not be counted so. He worried he would never hear his mother’s warm, infections laughter one day. And knew someday it would only be an echo in his memory. He worried about not being able to hug his broad shouldered father. And knew someday there would be no unconditional embrace of love awaiting him. He worried about not being able to see the happy, smiling faces of his two younger, beautiful sisters. And knew someday he would be blinded eternally.
The man was haunted by time’s slow march and, with each tick of the clock, with each fallen grain of sand, with each passing of day into night back into day, the man grew more worried.
Thus the ritual began. He could not say when, he could not say where, or even why he was driven to make appeals to a higher power. The man woke up and went to bed with the last thoughts running through his head being “please, God, just give me one more day of my family”. Offering silent prayers and worrying for their safety. Every day the man ran through this routine, worrying about losing what he knew he would eventually lose. It began to taint everything he saw and felt. Birthday parties became the tolling of a dread clock, marking the inexorable passage of time and the aging that comes with it. Is this the last year we are all here together? Marriages but a temporary union in the grand scheme of things, even if they lasted as long as humanly possible. Family dinners wondering, with all of life’s frailties considered, “is this the last meal we have together?”. Trips to the family camp where one was reminded by the occasional empty chair or voice not heard around the campfire of the cost of being mortal. Nights of revelry with friends. Moments here and then gone. Moments that seemed futile in the face of oblivion. Moments that had lost their luster and had become dirty. Tainted by his worry.
On one particular night he lay awake in his bed. The darkened ceiling of his room making him think of a tomb. The inky blackness seemingly impenetrable in the deep of night. His unquiet mind wondering who he now loved would fade away from this plane and be unreachable to him next. His ritual began but, on this night, something different happened. Where he had appealed for comfort with a meek and meager voice, begging the pardon of the Universe to grant him one more day with all he held dear there was now rising in his mind an angry tone. A voice of iron, of strength. “This is no way to live”, the voice in his head said, “to scurry about the feet of time waiting to be crushed into dust”. He had to agree with that. “Bear reality gallantly”, the gruff voice went on, “the time is limited but is that not what makes it precious? How could the immortal understand love if all was permanent? What wounds could not be overcome? What bridges not repaired? What endeavor not conquered with unlimited time on your side? Look at what rivers have done to mountains, glaciers to the land, oceans to the world. Would you be them? Everlasting, to the human sense, but lifeless. Immutable. Unfeeling”. The Worrier found himself nodding in the dark before he realized what he was doing. He grinned sheepishly ,embarrassed in front of shadows and blankets. The voice drove on, “Be thankful but not cowed. Do not fear the fleeting of moments but savor them. Redouble your efforts to create these moments. Reach out. Love. Feel. These are your weapons against that with which you worry. All despair. It is not just you who fret for your loved ones. For that you hold precious. It is how we deal with this dread, this implacable fact of mortality that defines a person. Not the money they make. Not the job they have. Not the accolades bestowed. None will last. But, in those final moments, when you are awash in a lifetime of memories do not allow them to be tainted with this macabre fretting of that which cannot be avoided. Live bravely, in the face of oblivion and let that be the armor in which your mind and soul encase themselves before the final doorway. You are not The Worrier, you are more than that”. The voice paused and the Worrier found himself breathless, his heart racing and ears straining in the now all too quiet night to hear the voice. For long moments he heard nothing but couldn’t help but feel there was more to be said. More to be heard.
As sleep overcame him and his limbs grew heavy and he began to slip into a slumber he heard in the distance that same voice shout, “If you choose to be!”. A ghost of a smile flashed across the Worrier’s face as he rolled over and whispered aloud, “I do”.
The next morning, on his way to work, The Worrier never saw the truck merge into his lane. Never felt the crunch of his car against the divider that ruined his body and wounded him mortally. He had no time to worry for that. He was busy remembering the voice from the night before. He was gathering his weapons. Gathering his armor against the coming darkness of the beyond.
He was busy reveling in the life he had lead. In the soft kisses of his mother on his forehead. Her loving face changing year to year with age but always emanating the same, intense love. Remembering the lessons his father had bestowed upon him dotingly as his eldest son. In the playful banter of his little sisters when they were little all the way through them being young adults together. He remembered the Christmas cookies he baked with his grandmother every year and how much she loved her eldest grandson. He remembered his friends and how he always tried to make them laugh and how thankful he was they let them into their lives. Sharing momentous occasions with him in attendance, a thankful guest. He remembered his grandfather’s sagely advice and loving eyes. His Uncles and Aunts and cousins. He remembered how much love had been in his life and realized he had been so lucky, so loved that hot tears began to stream down his face. Not of despair or fear but of love and joy. He was encased in gleaming armor, incandescent in the face of total oblivion, and armed with a lifetime of memories that he clung to with a ferocity unbound by mortal constraints. While his heart slowed he soared. Away and into the darkness, a beacon streaking away and lighting up that bottomless night.
The Worrier had become something more . He had become a warrior in that eternal struggle in which all must join. He worried no longer. He was loved. He was at peace.
He was gone.