Pale Horse

His heart beats under my hand. Fast, too fast. This is not the heartbeat of life. It is the heartbeat of pain and agony. Of death’s rapid approach. Boom boom boom boom. The pace never slackens, it never slows. It only gets softer and softer and softer. Boom boom boom boom and then it is gone. And in that brief moment before I snatch my hand back from a now lifeless corpse I feel death. I am acquainted with him all too intimately. And once I have left the room the reality of it is distorted, toyed with. And there are days when I am sure that I will see my brother again laughing and talking. Then my mind remembers and brings me back to that moment. And I feel the icy fingers.

Or, perhaps the time the rope couldn’t seem to slow my fall. As I plunged down the cliff face I was certain beyond all reckoning that this was it. And for a moment fear gave way to a calm acceptance. Then the rope went taut and I bounced crashing down to the ground. First, there was the shooting pain in my ankle, the reminder of the reality of life. And then sheer elation from having been so close to the end only to be snapped back at the last moment. A brief glimpse into the eternal abyss. Air never felt so sweet.

Or there are the random moments, the times when it sneaks up on you unaware. The bicycle underneath me is behaving all too well. But there is something, a wobble a stray thought, and then the memory of too many times being knocked to the pavement. The feel of concrete tearing at my flesh. Those moments come back to life in my mind’s eye and confidence is shaken. And when I yell at the woman in the mini-van who rolls through the stop sign without stopping, it is not her I am yelling at but the grim visage of death upon her grill. Metal teeth awaiting to flay my flesh.

There are the times when I feel that something is missing. That grey uncertainty that swells from my gut that tells me that all is not right with the world. The sun is setting, touching the waters of the Pacific slowly being extinguished. And I know that life should be something more, that there is indeed something greater. And I long for it. Out of the grief something calls to me and I strain trying to understand. Can the world be a better place? Can I be a better person? Does one lead to the other? Somewhere there is a dim picture of greatness, of philosophers, statesmen, rebels, healers, artists, dreamers, doers. How much is reality and how much is fantasy?

Fear is like that. It is in part reality and in part fantasy. There is a moment, a split moment when it is real. It ceases to be real when we fail to give it up, when we hold onto it beyond the moment. Falling from a cliff, I knew fear. Being hit by a car, a truck, a bus.... then I knew fear. Wading into the middle of a knife fight, I didn’t know fear. But I should have.

So, the question. Do you hold onto the anxiety or do you let it go and live? There is a moment when life is sweetest, when you look death in the eye and survive. And there was that moment... that moment when I was calm... plunging to my death and yet calm. I had given up the fear and accepted my mortality. And yet, why wait for that final moment to be calm. Why let life be shackled by a death that is yet to come.

No. I accept it now. Wherever and whenever it will come, it will come. And until that moment I am free from it. I cast off the chains of anxiety and am free to live. And I see that it is indeed a beautiful night. And I know those that are missing will always exist, as long as my heart beats.