^ Thomas Merton purportedly said that, and it's my favorite quotation.
I have habits that might be called morbid, but only if you accept the proposition that death is unpleasant. It started when my husband and I decided to get married. I came across a quotation by Roland Barthes that I wrote down somewhere but misplaced, something to the effect that when we fall in love, at that very moment we lose our love, that the shadow of our love's death or departure enters our life as a constant companion. Around that time I was asked by a writer friend to come to a party with a totem related to a goddess. We did several of these parties, and everyone would choose a name from a hat and trade their totem and it was like pulling a Tarot card, what you picked usually spoke to your life in some way.
For this particular party I prepared a wooden box, about five inches by four. Inside I placed a plastic figure of a woman in a puffy dress, the kind you might find on a wedding cake. I wrapped her in a gauzy piece of fabric, a sample of the dress that was then being sewn for my wedding, and mounted her in the box, which I'd painted black, with a pin in her back, so that she seemed to be floating in the box. The outside of the box I painted gold, and I wrote the Barthes quotation on the inside of the lid of the box. I took another sample of gauzy silk, this time a very loose weave, and pulled at the threads until they became uneven and left holes pocking the swatch, and I attached this over the doll like a veil, so that she looked dreamy and indistinct. The goddess was Arachne. I put so much of myself into this amazing box; it was very effective, and I didn't want to give it away, but I didn't want to go against the spirit of the event and deny the power of this totem to the person destined for it. Someone I had never met before pulled my name from the hat, and I've never seen her since, and do not know her name.
During this period of my engagement to my husband, I would look at my beloved and burst into tears at times.
It still happens. Suddenly the air changes and I drift outside the circle of my family and seem to be watching us from the future, after one of us has died. It feels like a spontaneous feature of living among loved ones, this phenomenon. Another of these habits related to living with death at my shoulder is that I sometimes find myself composing a eulogy in my head for H, or a family member, or friend. Not always, but often I do this while lying awake in the middle of the night. Sometimes I jot down some notes, but they're not organized and I'd have to start over if I did want to write a eulogy of anyone. I make mental lists of all the musicians I'd invite to play at H's funeral, or worry about how I'd get into his computer to dig out all his art work so I could display it at his memorial. This may be a perversion of the perfectly human wish-that-the-loved-one-would-die, but I don't think so. I think it's a love practice, and makes the days go more mindfully. It wouldn't be a bad idea, actually, if we all eulogized each other really nicely on an annual basis or something.
If I die tomorrow, I want it known that my life is pretty much the way I dreamed it might be. Amid all the planning and yearning and looking forward, if I take stock, this is it: home, family, art, beauty, community, friendship, the downy woodpecker that finally came to sample the suet we put out a week ago, after his first visit, hoping he would come back and add color and variety to our row of hemlocks.