My wife came home the other day with a potted pansy with which to decorate the apartment. We set it by our living room window for ample sunlight and I was disconcerted to notice it already looked somewhat withered. So I watered it and opened the window, assuming fresh air would do it some good.
The following days were warm and amicable. I didn’t check the weather too much and the window stayed open. Then one night a front moved through. My wife and I went to sleep with the sound of rain falling outside our open window and just a lite blanket on our bed.
But by the time we awoke both of us were shivering. When I raised the blinds in our bedroom I beheld a thin layer of snow covering the ground. I closed the window then remembered the pansy.
Sure enough, it was sitting upon the open windowsill exposed to the bitter chill from outside. The leaves were completely withered, hanging over the side of its pot like a ten-year-old with a bad case of seasickness might posture himself over the railing of a ship. I closed the window quickly, though I doubted it would do any good.
I have not come to terms with a world in which things die; I’m not quite sure I am meant too. For the survival instincts of a living, breathing and pulsating planet beckons me to witness the common bond between all living things, the bond that drives us in a plight for survival. Despite what we all know.
I went for a run the other day and jogged over what used to be a squirrel, flattened in the middle of the road. I stopped and looked at it grotesquely arranged on the pavement, a drunken eulogy of flesh and bones. I looked for a moment, then I continued jogging.
My wife appeared from our bedroom with two sweatshirts on and a look that I’m certain was meant to remind me of how I’d insisted on keeping the windows open the night before. But I didn’t take note.
“The flower,” I said, “it was left by the open window last night.”
“So was your wife,” she noted.
“I don’t know what to do,” I said.
“… ‘Sorry’ would be a good start.”
I rolled my eyes at her. “I meant about the pansy.”
Which is, to say the least, missing the point.
I could, perhaps, save the plant. Maybe some super-duper fertilizer would do the trick. Maybe if I put it into the microwave the warmth would revive its veins (note: as it turns out, this is not a good idea). Maybe, if I’m there five minutes before, I can dash out into the street and scare the squirrel into a tree so it isn’t run over.
But the pansy will die eventually. The squirrel may stay in the tree for a moment and, when I’m gone, dash beneath the wheels of the next car to pass. The executioner’s blade will fall upon us all, eventually. We can dodge it for a while; we can avoid it for a time. But learning to avoid it is missing the point. And I’d rather believe that death is god and it will win than ignore the elephant with cross-bones in its eyes looming at the end of my existence. I could not live in such denial.
But that is why yesterday I celebrated the only death I can celebrate: the death of a humble carpenter from a humble town, one that I’ve never visited. I celebrate this death with joy and reverence. I celebrate this death as I remove the pansy from my windowsill and stare at the body of a squirrel in the street. I celebrate the death with every moment of my existence, a living celebration to Him.
I celebrate His death for the fact that it was the most voluntary event in the cosmos. He was not a flower weakly succumbing to a sudden atmospheric change. Rather, He submitted to death’s terms by choice. And I celebrated His death yesterday because tomorrow I will celebrate that His agreement to said terms was only temporary; He always held the upper hand and He played it for everyone. Everyone, that is, but Himself.
I cannot accept a world where things die around me but I can accept that hand. I can accept a hand with a nail driven through it. I can accept a hand played for a world that lives, breathes and fights for life in testimony to the voluntary acceptance of the final sting in our stead. I can accept the hand which says a dead flower on my windowsill is neither permanent nor unnoticed.
I can accept that hand and within it find joy.
Then I can apologize to my wife for leaving the window open.