|This is my rough sketch for the cartoon |
that I want the Husband to draw
for my future obituary. Death is sporting
a Hawaiian shirt. Me, a flouncy skirt.
"Hello. What's your name?" asked the young man.
"Death," said 18-year-old me. It was a late afternoon nearly 50 years ago. My answer, of course, gave him a start.
To this day, I have no idea why he even walked over to the swings where I was sitting, the only person in the park until he and his friends drove in and parked near the bathroom. Our paths crossed once before when I was in first grade and he in second. In high school, I perceived him as being one of the "wild and tumble" guys. And, wouldn't you know it, he eventually would become a pastor.
Instead of making a quick getaway, the future pastor sat on the other swing next to me. Not really what I wanted. He seemed sincerely concerned that I had called myself Death. He probably thought I was suicidal or maybe psychotic. Far from either. I was just going through a period of finding a name that suited me. I just didn't feel like a Susie. I truly thought the word Death sounded calm, peaceful, and pretty. I recall telling the future pastor that, but I doubt he believed me. Who would?
Death was certainly not a stranger to me. I was the Mama's third baby. Her second one died at birth. My younger sister was born almost three years later. Baby girl lived about 29 months. She died in the Mama's lap as the Mama was feeding her lunch. I can still hear the Mama shouting, "Shirley! Shirley! What's wrong!" The Daddy ran from the kitchen, gathered the baby in his arms, and ran out the door to the car. The Mama was right behind him. She got into the car, the Daddy handed Shirley to her, then he raced around the car to the driver's side. As he turned to back out the car, he finally saw me standing beside it. "Go next door," the Daddy commanded. I stepped away from the car and watched as they sped off to town.
It was not until I was 17 that the Mama was finally able to let go of Shirley's death.
The name Death didn't last long, probably a few more weeks after the encounter with the future pastor. My next new new name was Susane, pronounced Su-sane.