Another day in town and another stop at my favorite port of call for a cold one…
Only one other customer; a distraught one, being actively ignored by the barkeep who smiles in relief at my entrance.
“I’m dying,” he says sobbing in his suds.
“Welcome to the club.” Say I.
“What? You too?” he looks up in shock.
“Yes, of course.” I answer, “We are all dying. From the moment we take our first breath until we breathe our last, we are in the process of dying. To be alive is to be dying.”
“Don’t give me any of this philosophy BS. Don’t you have any sympathy? I am dying and I’m scared shitless.”
“Scared of what?” I ask, sipping my nice cold brew.
“Of dying, asshole,” he’s definitely getting testy now, “What else?”
“But if you’ve been dying your whole life; why are you so frightened just now?”
“Well, I just found out today. The doctor just told me. Cancer.”
“How old are you?”
“63. Too young to die.” He mourns.
“Nobody is ever too old to die.” I say, “You have been dying for 63 years. Why are you scared now? Don’t tell me you never knew that you were going to die. You must have known about this for decades. This is surely no surprise.”
“Yeah, well, see how you feel when you find out.”
“Find out what?” I ask as innocently as I can manage.
“That you are dying, asshole.”
“What?” I act shocked, “Oh no! Can you be mistaken? This can’t be true. There must be some mistake. Are you sure? ”
“I am positive and if you don’t stop being such a smartass, it will be a lot sooner than you expect.” He is definitely seriously angry with me now.
“So, tell me, why exactly are you afraid of dying?” I ask as gently as I can to a man who has little left to lose and who is in a somewhat murderous frame of mind, “It seems like it is just something everybody goes through. Just like life.”
“None of your f%^&ing business.” He retorts.
“Ok,” I return my attention to my beer.
Silence reigns for a brief spell. I empty my beer, nod to the barkeep for another. Not a word passes between us. She smiles in relief or gratitude.
“I am afraid of where I might end up after I die.” He admits a moment later.
“Buried in the ground?” I ask.
“No, d*%#head, it’s not my body’s destination that scares me,” he says, “I mean my soul.”
“Oh, I get it now,” I say, “It is not the certainty of death that you are afraid of, it is the possibility of eternal life.”
“Maybe so,” he admits.
“You are not alone, you know. I’ve noticed that about most people,” I say, “they may say they are afraid of dying, but the real truth is that they are afraid of living, both temporally and eternally.”
“Jesus, I had to pick you, didn’t I?” he mutters.
“Can I buy you another beer?” I ask.
“As long as you don’t talk about dying any more,” he answers.
“Not a breath,” I say, lifting my glass, “Le’chaim.”
“Jewish?” he asks.
“No, pantheist,” I answer, “You?”
“Catholic,” he answers.
“Serves you right then, don’t it?” I prod.
“I suppose,” he says. “That’s your problem right there in a nutshell,” I say.
“What?” he asks.
“Supposition.” I answer. “Suppositions are a lot like suppositories. Take them out and examine them and you’ll discover that they smell bad.”
“What?” I’ve confused him now.
“There is nothing to worry about. No need to be scared.” I tell him. “Enjoy your beer. God is making those refreshing little bubbles just for you.”