Welcome to my world, Mr. Death.
A tree, glorious in autumn, is now firewood and mulch. I'm sad it's gone, though we have three others like it. I feel guilty, even though the tree was rotten and threatened our house. And I stand in awe of tree-felling technology.
. . . Last October 22, this maple and its colorful leaves were the subject of a letter and photographs. Click here to take a look.
. . . After a large chunk fell off last month, we could see right through the trunk. The area around the hole was rotten and split. When one of the Arden trustees came by to give the village's approval for the tree's removal, he said, "There's no need to chop it down; you and I can just push it over."
. . . There was no good place for the tree to fall. It was boxed in by the house, the power line, a hedge, and another tree. I expected the tree surgeon to cut from the top down. Instead, he cut from the bottom up.
First, one of his three assistants lifted the tree with a crane. Of course, the tree didn't budge -- it was rooted in the ground. But, by trying to lift the tree, the tree's weight was no longer on the trunk. Using a large chainsaw, the tree surgeon worked his way around the base of the tree, until the trunk was cut clean through.
. . . Suddenly the tree swung away, floating in air, dangling from the crane. It was a disorienting moment. Like a pendulum, the tree swung back and forth.
Once steadied, another cut was made, two feet up the trunk. After that piece fell and was rolled away, the crane operator lowered the tree and another piece was cut. Piece by piece the trunk disappeared. Soon the branches were within reach of the saws. They were cut and hauled off to the mulching machine. Soon the tree was gone.
Others around me -- people, not trees -- are also going. Some are diseased; one is gone. All are to be admired.
. . . A distant friend, Mary Jane, now in Colorado dying of cancer, writes this. "It's a beautiful sunny day here; the various greens and grays of the pinon, juniper and sage clear against the snow. Earlier today we watched two bald eagles swooping and gliding overhead; every day we see herds of deer, and sometimes elk, meander across the meadow in search of munchies.
"Over the last month we had wonderful visits with my parents and all of my siblings, and a long visit from Ethan. The 'African kids' have all returned and will be here soon. Jeff and his wife Jessica arrive tonight, and daughter Jess just landed in Detroit and expects to be here in a week or so.
. . . "My primary symptom is still tiredness, with no pain to speak of, and Harry and I take a serious walk almost every day. Life is very, very good... just maybe a lot shorter than I had anticipated."
. . . Mary Jane goes on to anticipate what a great funeral she'll have with all these loving people around her. She says how much she'll miss not being there. Then she says how she's not going to miss the fun, that everyone's invited to her pre-funeral wake next month, "probably at our church's fellowship hall. There will be lots of food and friends and laughter, a few tears, a time of sharing our memories of good times together. And we're planning an optional short service of songs and scripture before the partying for those who would like to join us."
Allan, a member of St. David's Church in Austin, died two weeks ago, also of cancer. His friend, Jane M., was one of four who took turns staying next to his hospital bed in the last hours. She says this:
. . . "I was privileged to be with him when he died. In his last breaths he taught me about death -- that it is natural, normal, and in a way, beautiful. I'd never seen a person die or touched a dead body, and it seemed so normal and human.
. . . "I was alone with him. He was in a coma and his breathing was that which, as a doctor explained, is generated by the lower brain stem and does not go on very long. Allan had not moved the whole time I'd been there and his eyes were rolled back in his head.
. . . "Then he suddenly moved his arms and hands sharply and made a different sound. His eyes suddenly focused in the most piercing look -- a look I'll never forget. It was as if he was looking through me to the sunlight-filled blue sky. Then the look faded and his breathing faded quickly -- maybe seven or eight very shallow and very weak intermittent breaths. His pulse also faded.
. . . "For an instant, I wanted to run to the hall and call for help, then remembered he was there to die as peacefully as possible. So I continued stroking his forehead and praying out loud and said what was a
paraphrased" version of the 'In Paradiso' -- 'Into paradise may the angels lead thee, and at thy coming may the martyrs receive thee, and bring thee into the holy city Jerusalem.'"
Mr. Death, welcome to my world.
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Monday, January 22, 2001.
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