The Fear of Dying [Fiction] (143)

I have a fear of dying. There’s no use beating around the bush about it. And it’s close, the dying, it’s so close.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a good life. I have a wife, who passed a few years ago, and two wonderful children who have children of their own. They’ve come to visit (crying when they think I’m asleep or not looking but looking strong and stoic as they squeeze my hands and look into my eyes).

All my life I’ve heard, “When it’s your time you’ll be ready.” But I still have so much fear of what comes after. Or what doesn’t. Mostly I dread the nothingness that I fear follows life. Because how can that be it? Every day I wake up to something new but tomorrow…who knows?

I wake up in my hospital bed but something feels off. The doors are missing. Where the TV used to be, bolted to the wall as though someone would steal a TV from a hospital, is instead a window. But not with the normal blue or cloudy sky. Instead I see dirt, roots, worms and rocks. My worst fear: realized. I’m buried alive; this hospital room is my coffin.

I wake up in the funeral parlor. I am sitting alone in the pew; a coffin lies at the front of the room. I can’t bear to look.

I wake up at the cemetery. It isn’t raining. It is cold out but I’m without a coat. I’m wearing what I always wear – jeans and a t-shirt. I’m standing graveside over a 6 foot hole (not as perfectly manicured as I would’ve imagined). The hearse pulls up and the pallbearers carry a coffin, my coffin, to its final resting place.

My granddaughter, a girl of seven, is the last one to make it graveside. She stands next to me.

“You look so good poppy.”

“What do you mean sweetheart?”

“I mean you look like your old pictures.”

She hands me her mother’s compact mirror out of the purse she happens to be holding.

I look like I did when I was thirty. The peak of my looks in life.

“So I do.”

“Are you okay?”

“I’m not sure,” I say, “I died?”

She just laughs at me, “Why else would we be here?”

“So this is what it feels like to die.”

And I’m struck with the weirdest question, “Am I a ghost?”

And again she laughs, “I don’t think so poppy. Ghosts are scary.”

There isn’t fear, only acceptance. To be surrounded by my loved ones in the afterlife is perfect. One couldn’t ask for a better way to go.

“Thank you sweetheart.”

“For what?”

“For helping me see.”

She looks back quizzically at me and she melts like smoke into the ether.

I wake up in the hospital with my family all around me. My granddaughter’s head is on my chest, sleeping. My son sees me open my eyes and smiles. I smile back, close my eyes, and go back to sleep.

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