Life is not safe. Superstitions like prayer and hope might give us comfort, but they are ineffectual against our destinies. Exercise and eating right, and not jumping out of airplanes, might improve the chance at longevity, but even then, even if falling pianos are not commonplace, there are accidents. I donít say cement your car to the driveway and hermetically seal the doors and windows of your home. For life to be enjoyed requires each of us to make a risk assessment. Whether you ski or swim or lean against plate-glass windows, there are no guarantees issued for every event that intersects with your life.
Who said life is fair? It wasnít me. Justice doesnít happen unless those who are good and able choose to intervene in events. And then they have to succeed.
I donít want Ms Keogh, my cherished companion, to die and I donít want to outlive her. But not wanting does not alter the laws of the cosmos, nor is my love for Ms Keogh a necessary ingredient in the operation of the cosmos.
In November, Ms Keogh took me out to Saint Nicholas, which is located just beyond the city limits of Cardiff. It is a small village without shops or pub, but some cottages have thatched roofs and there is a church. Adjacent to the village is the Cardiff & The Vale Natural Burial Meadow.
That Friday was beautiful, with bright sun and a slight chill in the air.
On the ride to Saint Nicholas, the cabby and Ms Keogh were caught up in a conversation and all three of us failed to see the sign for the burial grounds. We had the taxi drop us off at the Saint Nicholas Church. We were lost. I tried to enter the church to get directions, but it was locked. I went into a nearby primary school to ask directions. An assistant teacher was very kind. She explained the burial grounds were a bit of a walk. I could have managed it, but not Ms Keogh, who that day was using a cane. Kinder still, the assistant teacher, Debbie, decided she would give us a lift.
We were visiting the Natural Burial Meadow because Ms Keogh thought it might be where she would like to be buried. They do not allow markers. Coffins, if used, must be biodegradable. Sheep graze the field. Ms Keogh is planning to be buried in a wicker basket which she will help to make.
Most of the hilltop views looked back at the city of Cardiff; predominant in the eastern view was the stadium. Though Ms Keogh is a rugby fan, she preferred the west field, overlooking a valley. Obviously, the view will make no difference to her, but to me, who, we both expect, will outlive her. It will be a place to come in my devastation to dwell on happy memories. I told her that when she buys her plot, she should reserve the adjacent plot for me. I have less reason to care where I'm buried, and yet it matters emotionally. I could not feel right while alive thinking of being apart from her when I am dead, which at the same time I realize is silly. Dissolving into the Natural Burial Meadow, perhaps some of our atoms will merge, to be taken up by grass roots and eventually digested inside a ewe.
I am in Wales because Ms Keogh is in Wales and I havenít the courage to live my life without her. It was an easy decision to come and stay because nothing else in my life is as important as her companionship. She is my priority. I have made a commitment to her that resulted in a commitment to Wales and I could not have been happy if I had done otherwise. As it turns out, I love this land and its people and I want this to be my home for the remainder of my life. The commitment is reflected in our recent purchase, Register No. 05-0505, which grants us the right to be buried side by side in the West Meadow of the Cardiff & The Vale Natural Burial Meadow. It is a long way from 2260 Bronx Park East - 3,300 miles away. I had done lots of meandering in-between to get from there to here.
That first night Ms Keogh and I met, thirty-five years ago, we were introduced by a mutual friend, Max. Hours after meeting, Ms Keogh and I were sitting in the front seat of my rented car while Max slept soundly in the back. I had driven us the length of Cape Cod and had parked on the eastern edge to wait for the sun to rise out of the ocean. While Max slept, Ms Keogh and I talked about our fear of death. She already knew her kidneys would eventually fail and I was the first person she met who understood and shared her dread for the end of existence. There is no happy ever after, but these thirty-five fulfilling years have been remarkable.
Selected Suburban Soliloquies, the best of Mr Bentzman's earlier series of Snakeskin essays, is available as a book or as an ebook, from Amazon and elsewhere.