Mike Zielinski

Mike Zielinski

They say we’re born to die; that the trip from the cradle to the grave commences at our first breath.

How’s that for a depressing start to life?

To lighten the gravity and dispel the notion that this is an essay on impending doom, let’s assume that for most folks there is an ample chunk of time separating the cradle from the grave. And in the interim they have an extravagantly orchestrated life, squeezing it until the juice runs down their arms while catching a thimbleful of glory.

It’s probably best we aren’t programmed to be infinite creatures. Can you imagine how bountiful of a 401k you would need if you lived until age 937?

I don’t know about you, but cutting the grass, cleaning the house, raking leaves, shoveling snow, shopping for groceries, grouting the bathtub, remodeling the kitchen, adding salt to the water softener and swallowing a cavalcade of commercials for over nine centuries would get old for me.

Still, it’s hard to let go of people who pass. It’s the finality of it all when they close the coffin or light the crematory. Then it’s lights out, baby.

Granted, it’s a relief if you believe in an afterlife, knowing that the dearly departed will live on in a different and hopefully better dimension. Of course, heaven sure beats the hell out of hell.

I’m Catholic and I hope to make it to heaven someday. Of course, I know that many are called but few are chosen. So that concerns me even more than our oven currently isn’t working and the replacement element must be arriving on a slow boat from China. Nobody ever confused me with St. Michael the Archangel.

I’ve always thought it would be cool to die a Viking. First of all, they put your body in a Viking boat and incinerate you with flying burning arrows as you set sail for eternity. Then the best part. In Norse mythology, if you die in combat you spend eternity in Valhalla drinking ale with the god Odin. No wonder the Vikings always were raiding England. They feared dying in their sleep.

Woody Allen once wrote that “the chief problem about death is the fear that there may be no afterlife – a depressing thought particularly for those who have bothered to shave.”

I don’t shave daily so I have that going for me.

Now I don’t want you to think that I’m maudlin about death. It’s just been on my mind lately because my mother recently passed at age 92 after enjoying a life filled with family, friends and faith.

Plus these days you can’t escape the fragility of our mortality as the COVID-19 death count is flashed constantly on cable news.

And so many prominent people keep dropping like autumn leaves.

Passing away in the last year or so were baseball legends Henry Aaron, Tommy Lasorda, Don Sutton, Tom Seaver, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Whitey Ford, Joe Morgan and Phil Niekro; football legends Gale Sayers and Don Shula; broadcasting legends Larry King, Alex Trebek, Regis Philbin, Hugh Downs and Jim Lehrer; Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; civil rights leader John Lewis; test pilot Chuck Yeager; fashion icon Pierre Cardin; and celebrities Chadwick Boseman, Kirk Douglas, Sean Connery, Little Richard, Charlie Daniels, Charley Pride, Eddie Van Halen, Mac Davis, Helen Reddy, Carl Reiner, Jerry Stiller, Max von Sydow, Dawn Wells, Fred Willard and Bill Withers.

My God, is there anybody left to entertain and enthrall us? St. Peter’s turnstile at the Pearly Gates has been getting a workout.

Granted, a lot of celebrities and oodles of everyday folk pass away every year.

But talk about a talent drain in that aforementioned list.

Oh, well. It’s time to get back to the business of living. Heaven and hell can wait, especially the latter.

The Grim Reaper can go knock on somebody else’s door. I’m one guy who’s not dying to meet him just yet.

Mike Zielinski, a resident of Berks County, is a columnist, novelist, playwright and screenwriter.

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