Mer Licht, Meow, Mr. Ping, and Goethe   Leave a comment


Mer Licht or Meow

A noise in the night roused me from dreams. It sounded like something fell off the bed and I considered that it might be my old cat, Mr. Ping, and thought maybe he had died and fallen to the floor. Considering that he is only on life number three of nine, I decided to wait until morning to see if the noise was him hitting the floor. My tender-heart hardens a bit between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. I knew that if Ping had succumbed to old age he would still be there in the morning for me to handle funeral planning.

The next morning my cat meowed his survival of things that go bump in the night and said he was ready for breakfast. He’s been looking a bit ragged and one day he will not wake from his nap. When it happens, I will take care of his bony little body without the creepy feeling that it once would have caused. Age gives us more experience, or, resignation, regarding death and the understanding of the cycles of life.

Poet Dylan Thomas said, “Do not go gentle into that good night/Old age should burn and rave at close of day;/Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” His sentiment is fierce and fine, but a gentle going seems okay, too. No matter how it happens, it happens. Some have wise words in their dying hours, or possibly the person listening to the weakening person’s breath and the quiet exhalation of words might have misheard or embellished that last sentence for posterity.  Consider Francisco “Pancho” Villa who when dying after receiving multiple bullet wounds told a comrade, “Don’t let it end this way. Tell them I said something.”  German author Johann Wolfgang Goethe, supposedly said, “Mer Licht” (More light). The best are from Karl Marx. His housekeeper asked if he had any last words and he replied, “Go on, get out? Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!”

Working on one’s perfect, profound, or comedic last words is likely a waste of time, since the opportunity may not present itself, and if it did, the chance of forgetting your lines would be great at this stage in the game. But the epitaph on the gravestone or planning your own funeral and/or writing your obituary is something that can be done ahead of time. Although, writing an obituary is chancy, because if you write it too soon, you might miss some great accomplishments and forget to add them, but waiting too long, well you know. Even choosing an epitaph might be like getting that tasteless tattoo at a young age that you regret at 35, so it would be wise to revisit that decision yearly and consider if it still works for you. Writing your own might be better than what another puts on your stone.  A few examples of epitaphs: The words on an unknown vicar’s tombstone from the 18th century read, “He was literally a father to all the children of the parish.”  Or the stone of Sir John Strange (1696-1754): “Here lies an honest lawyer, – That is Strange.”  And on Dr. Keene’s from the 18th Century, “ Here lies Dr. Keen, the good Bishop of Chester, Who ate up a fat goose, but could not digest her.” From Groucho Marx (1890- 1977)”Here lies Groucho Marx and Lies and Lies and Lies. P.S. He never kissed an ugly girl.”

The only sure thing is buying the plot and putting your name and birth date on the stone, but what’s the rush? Here’s hoping Mr. Ping has six more lives to go, but in the meantime, he is not losing any sleep over what his last words will be. I am thinking they will sound something like “Meow” and I’ll interpret them as “Thanks for the memories, sleeping in the sun, on your pillow, on your lap, next to the dogs, on the windowsill, etc. etc. and thanks for the tuna. Ping provides good instruction on being in the moment no matter how many lives one has, or how many times one must reinvent himself or herself all the while recognizing that once a cat, always a cat and that’s not a bad thing.

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Posted March 9, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

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