On an eve of Christmas that seemed like any other, a man looked out to the sea, dreamt his last dream and went gently into that good night.”
It was the morning after Christmas and we were walking on the beach to visit friends we hadn’t seen for a couple of years. After a warm Mexican welcome, we asked “¿Donde esta Eduardo?” The silence said more than words ever could have. “Eduardo es muerto”, his sister said gently. We didn’t know much español, but we did know ‘muerto’. What to say when told someone has died is difficult; with language as a barrier, it’s torturous. “¿Verdad? It is true?” was all we could manage. The family was obviously saddened by their loss, but sad in a way that left us thinking that Eduardo’s death had occurred some time ago, that they had grown accustomed to it. One thing was certain—this death was not about loss—it was about life, and we were about to learn a valuable lesson.
That morning over coffee we talked about our lives, about everything that had transpired in the last two years since we’d seen each other, and we made plans for the day ahead of us. It was only when Ric and Jose were bobbing in the ocean that enlightenment came. “We’re swimming with Eduardo”, Jose said, as he told Ric how they had spread his brother-in-law’s ashes over the Manzanillo Bay that he loved. About the same time, I was getting a similar story from Norma, Eduardo’s sister, while we sat under the sombrilla on the beach in front of their rented casa. “He just fell asleep on Christmas Eve and never woke up again,” she said. “And we decided to stay here because this was where he loved to be.”
In our culture we don’t talk about death like it’s an old friend we haven’t seen for awhile. We avoid it, avoid thinking about it, pretend it’s never going to happen and look the other way when it does. Even when we glimpse our own mortality, it’s from a distance, with lots of denial between us.
The inspiring thing about this particular death was in watching the family continue on with the rhythm of their lives. Not in a ‘minimizing death’ sort of way, but in an acceptance that ‘death is a part of life and is going to happen to all of us’ sort of way.
With great gusto our friends cooked the food Eduardo loved, drank the wine that pleased him, making frequent and often funny toasts to the deceased. They talked of him as if he had just popped back into the house to create another culinary masterpiece, which he was wont to do.
This family was not debilitated by their loss. They laughed. They sang. They made plans for the future. They appeared to ‘see’ their brother, their uncle, their cuñado, in every waking moment and were content that he died peacefully, in a place he loved so well.
I only knew Eduardo for a short time but his love of life was infectious. It is obvious he lives on in the people he has physically left behind. And I, for one, am glad to have had a fleeting friendship with this wonderful man.
So perhaps when ‘la muerte’ comes a-knockin’ at my door, I’ll take a page out of the Sanchez/Perez book and invite him in, mix us both a whiskey Pandita and ask, “Where to next, big guy?”. Hopefully it’ll be swimming with Eduardo.