The City of El – “Melinda”

snuffed candle

I’m lying here, feeling my life flow out of me from the wound in my side. It is warm and feels gentle as it leaves my body, as if it were saying a sad farewell.

I am sad to see it go. I have had a good life here in El. I enjoyed many adventures, the best of which was becoming a mother. Maryam is in the City now. I wish I could say goodbye to her.

The king is dead. I don’t understand how that can be any more than I understand how the warm blood flowing from my veins carries my life away with it. The king was said to be eternal. Now, as I face death, it seems strange to me that I am not eternal, too.

How can a life be tied to such a small, temporary thing as a body? How can this great, ever-growing essence in me end? Even now, as my moments grow small, I still feel myself becoming larger—the very experience of dying expands me, give me more understanding, and more questions. Will they never be answered? Will this curiosity which is in me, which has led me like an adventurous friend into so many experiences and relationships, will it just end? Be snuffed out? Even a candle leaves a vapor, a whiff of growing, dispersing smoke when it dies. Will I? Or will I just be gone, like a footprint in the dust after the wind blows over it?

It seems impossible, and yet I have never been told otherwise. Death—the untouchable subject. No one talks about it. The dead are here one day and then gone the next, as if they never existed; their names are not mentioned.

But why? And why am I only now seeing the foolishness in this? Why did it take the experience of my own death to make me realize that we have been wrong all along? It is wasteful to let death take our loved ones. It is cowardly. No, perhaps we cannot stop their bodies from ceasing to hold their life, but we can keep ourselves from closing the door on their lives as if they never existed at all. Why should we not talk about our loved ones that have gone through death? Why should we close our lips and our hearts to the memories of them—both joyful and painful? Why should death be the end of them?

And what if it isn’t the end? What if they, like the candle’s smoke, expand into the air all around us, becoming part of the very atmosphere of our days? What if they simply shift into another way of being, leaving their bodies behind, but not ceasing to exist any more than the light of the candle ceases to exist when it leaves the flame, than the heat of a fire ceases when it leaves the hearth? The light and the warmth remain, though no longer embodied by wood or wick.

Perhaps these are the foggy thoughts of a woman whose breath grows weak and whose eyes are becoming misted over. Yet I feel, as death draws nearer by the heartbeat, as if clarity is just beyond that veil, as if the words—the understanding—which cannot function in this too-mortal clay, will burst upon me once I shed this body. Perhaps this is not the end after all?

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