Spencer Richard

Death And Life


A tarp once tried to kill me. 

In order to prevent this from being overly dramatic, I will first say that I didn’t actually die (spoilers!). 

It was a relatively calm summer day when me and two dearest friends decided to set up the new water-slide for the amazing kids-camp we worked at. The three of us and a young boy whose family was renting the campsite that weekend carelessly unfolded the giant 100-foot-square tarp from high up on the beach. We did this in order to fold it up properly and use it for the slide. It was made of a more durable material than your average tarp, but only because it was to be used as a water-slide for hundreds of kids to abuse with untrimmed nails and bloody noses. Anyway, there was a gust of wind. It looked like this:

And then they all died, I alone am alive to tell the tale...

And then they all died.

Well, maybe it wasn’t as drastic as that, but the gust had a similar quality to what was pictured above. If one had the time to think, the image of a tornado would have crossed their mind because it tore the tarp out of our hands and twisted it into a fury of black rubber. All I could do was place my hands in front of me. The tarp was affronted by my meek show of self preservation and so it decided to go for the kill. It crashed into me, knocking me over with immense force and simultaneously wrapping me in a dark cocoon.

Fun Fact: That was the moment I relived every time I tried to sleep for the next two weeks.

I was picked up in the air briefly before it dropped me onto my back, still in the cocoon, and then it proceeded to drag me violently down the incline of the beach approximately sixty-plus feet. Somehow from within the cacophony of noise, for a rippling tarp in the wind is even louder when you are encased inside of it, I was deposited in a tumble merely a few strides from the water. Once I realized what happened, I turned my head to see the black beast curling majestically, one-hundred yards or so in the air over the lake.

After some time it gave up and floated down into the water. My one friend came running to see if I had any broken bones. She was nearly speechless from the strangeness of the whole event. They other friend was laughing in some kind of hysterics, if I’m remembering this correctly—funnily enough, to this day I only keep in close contact with the first friend. I also remember that I had sand stuffed into my every orifice.

The feeling was surreal.

The point is that if I hadn’t been deposited, I very likely would have been dragged into the water and died in a watery coffin like Bruce Willis almost did in that M. Night movie. This is not morbid, it is simply a fact of possibility. This leads me to where I am now: alive and determined to stay that way until I die.

You see, though my experience was significant, it certainly wasn’t very extreme in the eyes of, I don’t know, Hollywood. My story would not star Hugh Jackman and Natalie Portman. But I must say for me, it just didn’t matter because sitting stupidly on that beach with a million little sand suppositories, I realized that death takes away everything. Hugh Jackman, Natalie Portman, movies, beaches, dearest friends, everything. When you die, nothing trivial like that in this world survives for you. It is the greatest act of uncreation you could ever hope to achieve.

I mean, it’s death people. Death!

Now that I have thoroughly made you depressed, I am going to do a bit of wizardry to make you feel better. There is something profound about us humans having this enmity with death, and I’m not just saying that for dramatic effect. Within this horrible thing lies the secret to life. I can illustrate it best by the concept of Fairy tales. Actually, G. K. Chesterton can, from the grave:

Fairy tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.

Only when we look at death and consider it as serious an option as life, only when we put the two in each hand and weigh them can we see the absolute ridiculousness of life. Only when we know that death takes away fall leaves to we realize the absurdity of fall leaves. Is it not strange that we are here with green grass and white teeth? Could they not have been the other way around? Why not?

Could not you have never been born at all?

This is the secret, ladies and gentlemen. This is the skeleton key which unlocks all the mightiest journeys in life. And yet this is a paradoxical thing like courage. A good life is knowing death so well that you are able to greet it every day. Life is a choice, you know. You could very well choose to end your life tonight. You could jump off of a bridge and without someone else having foreknowledge, no one would stop you. Isn’t that delightful?

“Yes it is.”

Life is a choice and it is made every time you wake up in the morning. Why take the time to get out of bed and make breakfast for your wife? Why have that cup of coffee while you read that book in bed? The answer is always the same: because you do not have to. Let me put it this way: why do you have a few beers with your old friends after you haven’t seen them in a while? Because you don’t have to—You don’t need the beer, so have a beer! That’s really the only sane approach, if only because it is the only approach that an alcoholic cannot honestly take.

Living every day like your last is not just a clever old adage, it speaks right to the heart of the issue. I add only that you also live it like it is your first. Today is both the first and last day you will ever see that is like it. One day, all the days will end for you and you will die. You cannot escape it. None of us do. Therefore, good reader, see life as a mysterious gift to be spent humbly and with thanks.

Is it not so?

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Spencer Richard

was once a small town columnist for THE HINTON PARKLANDER (2008-2009). Before then he performed to an unsuspecting audience of over 8,000 people during the ALBERTA WINTER GAMES in 2006. Later he had one of his own songs, ON THE WAY, produced by Black Road Records (2013) and showcased it in with an original music video. He is currently working on a couple of novels and a rap album. During the day he manages a book store in Edmonton, Alberta.

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