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A Conversation with Death

Updated on January 1, 2017
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher. He is a former journalist who has worked on various community and college publications.

I turned toward the grave, then back to the man. Only, he was gone.
I turned toward the grave, then back to the man. Only, he was gone. | Source

“Gil,” a voice whispered.

I snapped out of my deep dark sorrow, looked up and crane my head to and fro.

I glanced behind me to see Bill, my fellow pallbearer, wearing dark shades and head cast to the ground as he shared the weight of Ken’s coffin with me. I figured it wasn’t him.

“We need to talk,” it whispered, again.

I shot a glance to my left and saw a kindly-looking old man dressed in black, standing several yards away. Although my observation was brief, something about his eyes caught my attention; they were as dark as his suit.

A mourner I guessed, possibly Ken’s relative. I ignored him and went on with my duty.

Still, the voice perplexed me. I even had a crazy thought it was Ken contacting me from beyond. Was I losing it? Then again, I wished it was him.

Ken was my childhood friend. He was the guy everybody looked up to and wanted to be. He made the world a better place, and despite having it all, he never wavered to look after those less fortunate; especially, for a loser like me.

We finished our task and soon joined the rest as mourners. I distance myself from the crowd, but I sensed I wasn’t alone. I peered over my shoulder and saw the old man.

His death was sudden, and I didn’t take it well. I cursed at death for taking him from his family and friends. Most of all, I felt a sense of guilt. He had everything going in his life. I didn't. It should have been me, I thought. Not him.

I still felt that way as Bill, Jason, Michael and I carried him across the cemetery to his final resting place. Being a part of this sad parade was the only condolence I could pay him.

We finished our task and soon joined the rest as mourners. I distance myself from the crowd, but I sensed I wasn’t alone. I peered over my shoulder and saw the old man.

“Cursing won’t change things,” he said.

My eyes widen. This was no ordinary old man. How did he know what I was thinking? The realization was setting in. I didn't fear him for being so mysterious. I feared him because I came to a realization of who he was. And I feared that he knew me better than anyone else alive.

“I’m not worthy of life.” I confessed under my breath.

“Guilt is no way to honor a friend,” he said warmly. “His time was up, but yours isn’t.”

I turned to face him, bewildered: "He was a good man."

Being a part of this sad parade was the only condolence I could pay him.
Being a part of this sad parade was the only condolence I could pay him. | Source

“To honor him, is to be him, and live,” he continued as his warm smile widened. “You’ll discover you’re worthy of it.”

I turned toward the grave, then back to the man. Only, he was gone. I peered across the cemetery. I hope I spotted him, but he seemingly vanished without a trace.

Was I going crazy? Quickly, I turned by attention to the funeral, hoping nobody noticed I was talking to a mysterious man who was either there or not there. Luckily, nobody paid me no heed.

My attention was now on the funeral, but my mind kept wandering upon the events that unfolded. In the meantime, the sorrow I felt evaporated, and perspective started to fill the void in left.

Soon, a realization set in. The old man was right; there was no need for guilt; there was no need of pain. What was left to do was mourn and eventually honor my fallen friend.

And from that day forward, I did.

“To honor him, is to be him, and live,” he continued. “You’ll discover you’re worthy of it.”
“To honor him, is to be him, and live,” he continued. “You’ll discover you’re worthy of it.” | Source

Not the Only Story on "Him"

This story is one of several flash fiction and poems pertaining to a friend who passed away more than 10 years ago. The following links are to these texts that touches more into the person and the situation his death created.

These were written in honor of someone who lived a full life, despite being given a bad hand in life.

© 2015 Dean Traylor

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