Coming to an End by Mathias Freese
As I walk through the days of my life, I thought I might try my hand at what thought or feeling usually encases me. A few days ago, my housekeeper commented on a book of short stories I gave her as a gift. She and her husband are both reading it. She shared that her spouse felt I was a depressed man. I said nothing. No comment was made about the skill revealed in these stories, plot or surprises if any. I reflected on what she said and I felt that I should have told her to put the book down and to study the recent twitter ravings of the mad man in the Oval Room. If I am depressed which I have experienced throughout my life as part of living or if I have a proclivity for this feeling at least I examine, taste and roll it about in my mouth to savor its total unsavoriness. Depression and death are mafioso in my life.
A kind of darkness has always been with me. I don’t think it has been disabling. It has provided an enabling aspect for as I work it out, I create books. I hurt no one with my spiels. I sometimes gather, as from my housekeeper, that depression is an unseemly and threatening emotion. She mildly denigrates my writing by labeling it a product of some kind of lightly diseased mind. Depression can slay, but here I am told that depression is not kosher. Next time I’ll push aside a tall glass of cold milk with my pastrami on rye.
If you learned relatively soon in childhood that you were terminable – young children are terrified to learn that a parent may predecease them, and then it is all repressed; that existence is a cruel joke, that you didn’t ask to be born so as to face the end, and that you are the tightly coiled shortened innerspring of some abysmally neutral and uncaring cosmic response, I would feel betrayed by existence. I suppose one may say that depression is the human defense to fight off the ultimate demise. Its weight has the hold of gravity, solemn and stolid. Some of our kind is impaired or destroyed by this human characteristic – or commit suicide; some are disabled for most of their lives; and some, foolishly, try to work with it, ride the tiger if you will. The writer, perhaps sublimely neurotic, stands apart and observes—a defense no doubt; someone, like Hitler, stands apart and destroys in a tantrum of all-consuming apocalyptic hatred for self and others for being given this existence, for he is a death-giver. Or some, like Trump, try to brand depression.
I hear the hound of heaven in the moors, and I have come to the throat-gripping and choking realization that I am coming to an end in terms of years and illnesses. What is fascinating about the species, different from person to person, is how we face doom. We can only handle our own responses idiosyncratically as the disease is unremittingly out of our control. We are beset, we feel, we know, by external forces that all our lives have lain quiescently and all of a sudden, an insurrection and troops must be sent by Rome to the outer walls of Gaul. Time collapses, the moment left is all. If we are aware, moment to moment, what can we do other than observe, reflect, perhaps act? Beneath the manifest need for the bucket list, so common among us, is latent desperation, as if devouring all the pizza at once will suffice to end the hunger. The bucket list is a reclamation, of going back in time unlived, and to complete, acquire or finish opportunities left unattended to, unlived. Call it a human folly.
I think it might serve us better if we chose one or two things to do well, such as giving and getting love; less is more, I say. The hardest thing of all, the toughest nut to crack, the steel-like question to answer, the boulder to shunt aside is to discover what is it I want to do in the time I have left, for we are truly near-death experiences. Freud said love and work, so did Oliver Sacks. I am still with the nutcracker and that damn walnut just won’t sit steady in its jaws.
I wonder what would have happened to me, what experiences would I have encountered if the realization of time and intent had come earlier to me in my life. I know one thing. The bucket list never would exist for I was living it. I am wondering if at 78 I may attain an awareness which leads me to a living, a doing, acting that will put air into my tires and inflate my hope-bladder so I live in the face of denial and dying.
…And then I am gone.
MATHIAS B. FREESE is a writer, teacher, and psychotherapist who has authored eight books. After his first novel, The i Tetralogy on the Holocaust, his second work, I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust, won the Beverly Hills Book Award, Reader’s Favorite Book Award, and was a finalist in the Indie Excellence Book Awards, the Paris Book Festival, and the Amsterdam Book Festival:
In 2016 Tesserae:
A Memoir of Two Summers, his first memoir, received seven awards.
The following year his second memoir appeared, And Then I Am Gone.