It is a strange existence to be around, always. To be ever-present, but never specifically seen. As if one is intangible, invisible. People like to pretend that I do not exist. And yet, they are afraid of me. I cannot say that I truly blame them. To all people, I am unseen and unknown, but expected. Invisible and forbidding, representing the shadows of separation that falls, seemingly forever, between lovers, friends, mothers, husbands, and children. How could they not fear me?
I have existed since the days of Adam–a shadow, myself, lesser than angels, but in some strange ways, greater than man–created by the Creator. I am not so forbidding as one might think. More like a comforter and timekeeper, sent to aid those who must part company with the world.
I was created to be absolute, with a sense of justice. There have been times when I have wished that I could speak to those I must leave behind to listen to the echoes of their own grief, thinking that perhaps I could say something to ease them. But that is impossible for me, only being able to have a special, one-time communication with a person in their final time of need. Ultimately, I am impassive. As I must be.
Throughout the existence of mankind, I have been there. Some small part of me following each man, woman, and child. I have done my duty, always, to the best of my abilities. Truthfully, I can say that I have never wavered, but always held faithfully to my purpose. One could say that it must take endurance and strength, maybe even some patience to stare into the faces of frailty and fatality every day.
For I am always needed, in many places throughout the world, each and every day. Sometimes in singular, quiet moments before dawn. Sometimes in the solemn and final beats of the heart, surrounded by watchful loved ones. At times it is in the dark seclusion of a remote location–some scene of unfeeling brutality. Then there are times in wards of hospitals with people overcome by illness and disease, their eyes bright with fever. In times like that, they often speak aloud to me.
The times of the most unspeakable tenderness are at the loss of a child, no matter how young. Also on the fields of battle, where the pride, rage, and greed of humanity leaves young men cut and wounded, bleeding out and desperately gasping for peace and reassurance. In the final seconds of a person’s life, there is something that each one needs or longs for to comfort them, and part of my job is the ability to take the form of whatever that might be for each individual. In those times of war, kneeling in the dust and carnage, I am most likely to be heard whispering the loving words of mothers–as though I can give their noble children the chance to say goodbye before they release their hold on their once remarkable strength.
Very rarely is anyone surprised at my presence. Loved ones might stubbornly hold to the hope of life and vitality, but a dying man knows when something has shifted or changed. He knows when his heart begins to falter. Still, there is reluctance, as an automatic reaction to the thought of moving past the life they have built into the unknown. Panic sometimes rises when I have told them what must be done.
“Hush, now,” is one of the first admonitions I can be heard to whisper to their souls. Not their hearts–for, in reality, the heart is just a muscle. It is their essence of being, molded at the day of conception, that feels, that hurts, that fears, or that doubts. And so it is that part of themselves–that core–that I whisper to.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
The process of leaving one’s body can be so painful, and most people gratefully clasp to these hopeful promises of God, relaxing their hold, so to speak, at the thought of the peace that waits.
Some are ready and waiting for me, seeming to reach out for me within an instant. Others take more time–minutes, or hours. But it is time that I spend faithfully. These are the moments that I was created for, no matter how long they may last. They are meaningful, no matter where or how they happen. For it always speaks to my own being to be able to do what I was designed for.
To me, my job is simple, and I simply do it. I look into a person’s face, at once being able to see the child that was, and the adult that is–to see the span of their years. And then I comfort them until I am able to touch their ageless core of existence, calling them out of their former home so that I may escort them to courts they could not begin to imagine. Never looking back.
“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.” -John Donne