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June 2, 2024

Before I die

What do I have left to do before I die? It can happen at any time, tonight or in 2 or 10 years, or maybe I’ll live to be 100? Obviously, what’s left for me to do is to live! To open my eyes every morning around 5 and wait for the sun to wake up. I love the whitish light that precedes the start of the day. The light blue crossing the earth like a vast sea turned upside-down. In front of such beauty, I can only close my eyes and let the hands of time fly away.

Where am I? I’m dreaming, I’m confused, I’m looking for paradise. Would it be above, all in white; or maybe all green, at the bottom of the sea? How could I leave behind this heavenly place? The flowers, huge fir trees, my family, my books, my writing and my great-grandsons, who are eager to start school.

I drift off again and imagine a baby girl crawling on all fours in the kitchen in Caplan. She’s chewing on a small dried fish and smiles at me. Would it be possible to start my life all over? I just want to live a few more years, discover who I am, heal my soul and learn to love.

What is it to live? If life were a long vacation – it’s far from it, of course – we’d end up as we always do regretting not having seen this or visited that. The Great Sphinx in Giza, the Eiffel Tower or a few kilometers of the Great Wall of China. In the bus that takes a handful of the living to the gates of Heaven, what would we talk about before falling silent?

I shut up. I swallow my questions and explode. I shout out my regrets: I didn’t finish my classical studies, didn’t become a great writer, stopped myself from being guided by my heart and my true will. I should have refused to marry my children’s awful father.

I still have so many things to experience before the great departure. My mind is swirling, my heart is agitated! It’s difficult to learn to die when we’ve never learned to live. Should I make a list of things to do, see and think about so I can experience life’s beauty even more, allowing myself to venture past the limits I set myself? And even then, I love life, my life. A quiet life at times, but so good and so beautiful! Contented with an uneventful existence, I risk being disappointed. If I chase the bees from my flowerbeds, I can’t expect to enjoy their honey.

Am I truly alive? I wonder. I feel my left arm, right breast, neck, belly. I am made from stardust, according to the famous astrophysicist Hubert Reeves. I really would’ve loved to have met him, to ask him where we go when we fly away. Could we really be the children of the stars who’ve taken earthly bodies? And, tell me, who would be the father of so many kids?

I am strong, I am silly, my pendulum is swinging at a different pace. Like an infant, I confuse day and night. In a corner of my mind, I cultivate wisdom and the poor thing grows at a snail’s pace. I have so little time left!

I despair, age is distorting my beauty. It’s wrinkling my skin, spotting my forehead, sinking my cheeks and diminishing my sense of taste. My dreams of adventure melt away like ice in the sun.

I write and tremble with fear. Everything that happens is meant to happen. I’d like to fly away, I’d like to stay, chain myself to a giant oak and never move. Could I ponder and take my measure before leaving? My life’s path has always been to cultivate my imagination and explore new forms of expression. I’m constantly faced with a fear of not being good enough. When I was a girl, I’d sew my clothes, write poems, draw flowers, faces, pretty owls and lions’ heads whose fate I imagined.

It’s an instinct I was born with. The artist in me is capable of seeing the potential of an idea, a landscape, a colour or the twist of a sentence. My mind races, my fingers start to type. They move through an imaginary Sahara, on a white page suddenly inundated by thousands of small dark letters. That’s how the grace of words and the generosity of writing come to me. I create each morning by experimenting with words torn from chaos. I soar, I fly; the scent of lilacs envelops my summer.

In this generous world of words, couldn’t I imagine my own death? To see the immortal lady appearing as gently as the spring arrives. To hear the boat horns sounding, the fishermen shouting, the soft singing of the seagulls, the children’s cries. I can see us, death and me, walking on the pier. Our dresses lifted by the ocean wind. Our white shoes dirtied by fish scales. A giant eagle snatches us and I smile. I know it’s the end and yet I’m fine. The bird knows the way to the angels’ door. Open up, Mom, I’m here!