Into The Sunset

Into The Sunset

A Story by jimagain

Can this really be the end, or simply a new beginning? Was this a sunset, or a sunrise?

As the sun sinks slowly into the horizon and disappears from our view, it signifies the end of our day. The night has come and our labor has ceased. Soon we will lie still with our eyes closed in an eerie semblance of that which awaits each of us at the end of our days. And yet as the sun ends our day, as it disappears from sight, it also begins a new day for someone else. As surely as it is setting below the horizon from our perspective, it is also breaking over the horizon to start someone else's. Our sunset becomes another's sunrise, the end of our day is merely the beginning of another's.

The preceding observation came to me as I was traveling to see my terminally ill father, living in Hampton, Arkansas. I fully anticipated this to be the last time that I would see him alive, assuming I would arrive before he departed. I had left Hattiesburg, Ms about midday, by dusk I was headed west on I-20. The sun was beginning to set and it was another display of the creator's handiwork as he deftly painted a sunset in vivid color. Traveling into the sunset, it seemed so surreal. As if it was the final sunset that would fall on my father as well. It also punctuated the futility I felt, as I was no more able to prevent my dad's demise than I could prevent the sun from setting.

On May the eleventh, 1997, the sun set on James Thomas Henderson and rose over the horizon to begin a new day.

I hate funerals. I don’t particularly enjoy anything that brings me face to face with mortality. I suppose that avoiding it won’t make it go away. We have many mechanisms to deal with the underlying knowledge of or own temporal existence. Denial doesn’t remedy the inevitable but it seems to lessen the dread of it.

All through time, man has had to deal with the inevitability of death. One of the earliest written accounts is found in the book of Job. Faced with the prospect of death, Job yearned for something of himself to live past him. In despair he found found hope.

Job declared in his grief in Job chapter 19, verses 23 through 26;

"Oh, that my words were now written!
Oh, that they were printed in a book!
That they were graven with an iron pen
and lead in the rock forever!
For I know that my redeemer liveth,
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
And though after my skin worms destroy this body,
yet in my flesh shall I see God".

Some of us prepare ourselves ahead of time in various ways. Benjamin Franklin composed his own epitaph;

“Here lies Benjamin Franklin, Printer
like the cover of an old book,
its contents worn out,
and stripped of its lettering and gilding,
lies here food for the worms.

Yet the work itself shall not be lost,
for it shall, as he believes
appear once more,
in a new and more beautiful edition,
corrected and amended by the Author”

The only thing perhaps we fear as much as our own mortality is that of a loved one. Generally it strikes never as hard as when it is our own parents. For me it was my father. In one of those ironic turns of life, my wife and I found out within a two week period that both of our fathers had cancer. Both proved to be terminal

How can it be that I’m attending my own father’s funeral? Everything seems so surreal. I feel so detached, as if the man in the casket is not my father. It only seems as if it were yesterday when he was so full of life and vigor. Could my childhood be so distant, where did the time go? Or is life is like a river, ever flowing so imperceptibly, almost deceitfully. Until all of a sudden you realize that you have drifted completely out of view of the familiar surroundings. You find yourself in a scene that you barely recognize. Gazing over into the water you see your own reflection, yet so much older than you remember.

Memories are arranged much like an old shoe box full of photos, not in any particular order. As I sit here, I remember when I was about five or so, going with my dad to my first funeral. Ironically enough, it was his father’s funeral. Children have a low threshold of tolerance at somber occasions and I’m sure that I was not particularly cooperative at this time. I recall being aware that there was something about the morose surroundings and somber expressions of those in attendance and yet not quite grasping the finality of the time. Perhaps that contributed to my not wanting to be there. I do recall clutching my father’s hand and staying in close proximity. It was as if I wanted to be sure that I wouldn’t be left behind when dad left. It seems as if the only thing I can remember about my dad’s father was his funeral.

I remember my dad often, not in death but in life. While he has gone, his memory remains. To me it was a sunset; to him a sunrise.

© 2012 jimagain

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Added on December 24, 2012
Last Updated on December 24, 2012
Tags: passing, death, loved one passing, grief, parent, relationship, reflection



Higbee, MO

Jimagain' is on the loose. ...confusing dialogue, dangling participles, convoluted thinking, inane and profuse verbiage! My grammar is minimal, deplorable, maybe even criminal, but I'm more con.. more..