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  • Hawkeye's, 'Days of Doubt' along with Kiki's "The Real Africa" compelled me to revise & reprise a few things, versions of which I've previously posted. No need to re-invent the wheel!

    Many African societies divide humans into three categories: Those still alive on Earth. The Sasha. And the Zamani.

    The recently departed whose time on Earth overlapped with people still here are the Sasha - the living dead. They are not wholly dead, they still live in the memories of the living who can call them to mind by creating their likeness in art or bring them to life in anecdote. When the last person to know someone dies then that person leaves the Sasha for the Zamani - the dead.

    The Zamani are not forgotten but revered. They are still remembered in the collective consciousness of the people, although all those who knew them personally have also passed.

    We lack these Kiswahili terms and concepts in modern Western culture but they are no less real regardless of one's hemisphere of residence. The eternities of our loved ones who have passed exists in all the lives they touched. Their words and their laughter echo in our memories. Their lives and the way they touched our lives does not fade. They will not be forgotten.

    My Pops was an Irish immigrant who came to the States when he was 25. He was fond of saying that Love, not sappy, Top 40, romantic TV love, but real Love is self sacrifice and self denial.
    He not only said it, my Pops, he lived it. He became my Mother's primary caregiver for 18 years after she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

    I hate that word, that disease as if it was a tangible thing, a monster, a predator feeding on the brains and bodies of its victims. I watched that relentless fucker kill my parents one day at a time for nearly 20 years. Parkinson's steals the ability to govern the body first. It takes its sweet goddamned time but eventually the patient is robbed of their ability to control their mind and their thoughts as well.

    Dementia.

    There were days I prayed for Ma to die in her sleep so she'd be free from the suffering, from the inability to control her own life down to the most basic functions. There were other days I made notes in my journal for a play I titled 'Changing Mother's Diaper'- A Duty Dance With Death and Dying'. The musical numbers are real showstoppers! Humor is my opiate.

    Pops cared for Ma under their own roof until the day she died. She was surrounded her by all of her children and her grandchildren. We held her hands and caressed her head and massaged her feet.

    Her final breath was a musical note. One sweet sustained chord delicately blown through the finest reed instrument my ears have ever heard. Then she was gone.

    My Father's courage made that moment possible but he never was able to see that or recognize his victory over the odds. He had cared for his wife just as he had promised her he would - in sickness and in health - when they were just two naive young folks beginning a life together with not many more resources than wits, love and a '55 Chevy Belair.

    But Pops was beaten by the 18 years of care-giving.

    He was drained by the bitter disappointment he felt in his once staunch Irish Roman Catholic faith. In the final analysis the dogma and doctrine of Catholicism provided no solace only empty platitudes. My Pops, with no conceit, had always maintained an image of himself as a good man. Hardworking. Loyal. Honest.

    As a result he grappled with the 'Why do bad things happen to good people' question and could find no answer to quell his sadness, his bitterness, his overwhelming sense of loss.

    I rolled away from that mythology myself as a paralyzed 16 year old flat on my back in the Stryker frame after I rode a Fiat Spyder up over the high side on Ortega Highway and broke my back. It's been 39 years. I'm an ambulatory paraplegic. Somedays I hurt like it happened yesterday.

    I'm not complaining. I'm in much better shape than I ought to be in considering what a crusty old reprobate I am. I reckon if I'd have ever thought I'd live this long I might have taken better care of myself. Or not.

    And so it goes...
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