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The debt of a dead man's gloves

Technically, it's not Dead Man's Gloves. It's Dead Woman's Gloves because they fit, and I'm a woman. Or, apparently, a Ma'am. That's what young punks call me in the United States. They call me Ma'am and I scowl. We don't do that in Canada. Especially to anyone under the age of 92. We just say Can I have your signature here please and consider that respectful enough, as long as we let you marry a gay or smoke a little pot on the superquad.

It was awkward, said Justin. We always had a pile of recovered gear in the patrol hut. Stuff nobody ever came back for. We found a camera once and returned it to the parents, and they developed it. (the room went silent) Yeah. And snowboards, and skis, and sometimes, like, one boot. Stuck in a tree well on the back side and we'd remember that it might have belonged to one of those two girls we found in that creek, or those kids in waffle t-shirts who started that slide. Maybe.

And the pile would grow and grow and eventually, on one of those deep days, a telemarker would eye a snowboard and think Well, it's all soft out there and hell, I'll try it and so he'd get over the Dead Guy's Snowboard thing and pull it off the pile.

Justin makes the point. Remember those alpine boots I had? The purple ones? Those were Dead Guy Boots. Actually they were Crazy Dead Guy Boots.

I remember. Oooh, you mean Crazy-Naked-Dead-Guy-up-a-Tree?

He shakes his head. Nope, not that guy. Kamikaze Dead Guy.


I didn't mind. Those were good boots.

I look at my gloves. BURTON is stitched black on white. You got me these.

He nods.

You found these at the patrol hut.

He nods again.


It's not fair, really. The dead owe us nothing and we owe them everything. We owe the dead our exquisite appreciation for how fleeting we are. Because when we embrace fleetingness - truly, wholly - we become conduits of peace and acceptance and courage. If we really understood that we're gonna die like he did and like she did, we'd LIVE, my god. We would live with such liveliness. We would never again lose vitality because we cared too much about Looking Good.

We owe them everything and they have all the answers, the dead. Why are we here? Is there anyone else out there? Is it true what they say about butterflies? Are there ancient things or is there only dust? Is dust such a sad thing? Is there a universal home and primal cosmic energy and God and by the way, does he really care if girls kiss girls or if we smoke pot on the superquad? Because if there's a god, god made pot just the same as god made hurricanes. Some say the hurricanes are punishment for the pot and all our lusts and foibles. Others might say god slid the pot, the lusts, and the foibles under the table to help us cope with the hurricanes.

Somebody you knew is gone, now. And somewhere, on some plane of near-existence, that somebody knows every secret worth knowing.

It's not fair, really.


I wonder if it's called 'eternal rest' because when I die everything will be revealed, finally, in a flash, and the shock of it will require a very very long nap until I am born again as a beautiful whitetail doe. And eighteen months later I will be shot by a dude with a rifle and a suit that looks like a bush. And then I will be strapped to the back of a flatbed truck and paraded through town with my eyes fixed and glassy, my hooves dripping beautiful blood in the parking lot of the liquor store.

And again, as my killer emerges with a six-pack of Oland Export and everything goes dim: in a flash, revelation! Next time, I will sit in mud. I will obscure my brightness in the forest. Another answer to inform my evasion. Next time, I will outwit! I will win!

After a while, I am born again. Consciousness, inhabited space. Body, occupation, cold and current. Moments before this round's awareness of soul slips away I place myself, wry as it hits me: I am a trout.


What most recently prompted you to think about lusts, foibles, death, life, answers, and universal cosmic energy? Did you come to any conclusions? Did it require a six-pack of Oland Export?

Reader Comments (31)

Lump in throat, Kate.

For the first time, really, I'm thinking about it. I've picked up "life is fleeting" and "ohmygodthat'shorrendouslysad" and "those poor people" and "tragedy" and "oh my. please tell me if there's something I can do" along the way, watching people lose people here and there.

Now it's more like "Holy shit, life is FLEETING". It's urgent. And "Wait. What? I'm NEVER going to see him again?" and "and even if I do, I have to wait until I'M dead!?" I have to believe I will, in one way or another. There's a simultaneous peace and gigantic stress that I've never known before.

This is where I am, right now: http://alisoncosker.wordpress.com/2011/04/07/voice-universe-star/

As for the stuff (in the patrol hut, or, wherever people leave their things)... they took his clothes to the City Mission this week and even though he was cremated and was gone-gone nearly 2 weeks ago, there's something so GONE about a man with no stuff.
April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlison
And oh my goodness. That instant urge and sense of "I owe him something. I owe him everything. Wherever he his right now, he has got to be able to look at me and see that I'm sad and want to honour him, somehow, always."

I spoke (for a gruelling but actually kind of peaceful eight minutes) at his funeral. Every time I practiced beforehand, I cried a lot. Somehow, I made it through the eulogy with laughter and minimal public meltdown. There was this very odd sense of peace that he was there. Death is whack.
April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlison
God you write well. I have goosebumps. Deer and trout indeed.

I remember wearing my dead sister's uniform to school (my parents just cut the initial off the name tape) but hey, you know, they'd just forked out for it and it hadn't been worn much.

Only today in fact I have been thinking about this, and dust and fleetingness. My sister would have been 49 today. And that just doesn't make sense to me in any way. My son said 'wouldn't it be great if the dead could just pop back quickly and tell us what's there and then pop back.'
April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeer Baby
i'm always thinking about it. nothing specific prompts these thoughts except for the fact that i am often ill and always struggling to have everyone believe i can be a normal person. "you can be comfortable around me! no really, you can!"
one day i am utterly pissed off by God. the next i sink to my knees in despair/hope/apology, asking Him to come into my life and heal me. i like to think that in the "afterlife", i will be able to sit with God, you know, over coffee or something, and ask him all the questions i can't find answers to. and i can't lie, the idea of dying, in some small morbid way, relieves me, at least for a moment. i appreciate my life and i'm blessed, i really am. but it's sort of good to know that i won't have to fight this hard forever.
April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrittany
a big move across the pond to be with the man i love has got me thinking about these things lately. everybody says "what are you guys waiting for? just go, GO!" and i agree with them wholeheartedly and then i walk away and in that short time, fear slips in and reminds me that this move is really SCARY and COMPLICATED and i believe it because i can be wimpy that way. and then little things arise (like this blog post) to remind me that life IS fleeting and fuck it, prends ton courage à deux main et SAUTE! it boils down to trust, i suppose, and damn if that isn't a hard one for me.
April 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjeanine
Deer Baby, what your son said: that made me smile. I couldn't agree more.

Jeanine, the last bit about trust.... me too.
April 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersweetsalty kate
aw shit kate. we experienced a death yesterday and so these words today, well they ring in me. and maybe its the lack of sleep or puffy eyes or sore heart but it feels like you're in my head. but with wiser more complete and comforting thoughts. so, thanks for that.

"We owe the dead our exquisite appreciation for how fleeting we are. Because when we embrace fleetingness - truly, wholly - we become conduits of peace and acceptance and courage. If we really understood that we're gonna die like he did and like she did, we'd LIVE, my god. We would live with such liveliness. "
April 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermeredith winn
i wish they could pop back.

i am deep in the quiet space of dates and wonder right now. yesterday was six years since that first airlift to the IWK, since i entered that space of wide open awareness to the little self i carried but didn't fully believe i could lose. today is eleven years since my grandmother's death...she who raised me, who gave me the capacity for that wide openness that made me so much more.

i have closed off, since. i don't mean to. i know better, you're right...my dead have been teaching me for years. i hope they forgive me doing the taxes and writing to deadlines instead of the LIVING that ought to matter. i hope i get through all that stupid shit fast, b/c in the end i believe them: it doesn't matter.
April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBon
I recently experienced that and came up with zero answers when I threw myself face-down into my pool and floated like that for as long as I could. http://www.avitable.com/2011/04/09/stripped-bare/
April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAvitable
This is great as ever. Makes me think that sitting around wailing about a broken heart is kind of lame actually and Jeanine - I am sitting around wailing about a broken heart because I was too scared to take that leap - so please please just go, do it for me , a person who you do not know but have some happiness for me.....( I hope she reads this ) but back to the death thing, I feel them there sometimes, the dead and this weekend I sat in my father's house . My father died in September and the little house has all his stuff in it, I emptied his trash , I feed his geese and they looked at me with their wheres-the-old-guy- who-sings-to-us eyes and I drank his whiskey and tried to forgive him for not loving me enough. I need to live and thanks for this Kate, I think I will try .
April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMartha
I am in the space of mourning a lost relationship and the changing of things and this is a beautiful piece of writing which connects me to the fleeting nature and the commitment to live *lively*. Thank you for sharing this beauty with the world.
April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCorinna
I like the thought of becoming dust. I think the complacency of an afterlife can make us miss out on a happiness now.
April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndria
Yes, in the US we do say ma'am too much. I get reprimanded all the time for it. The Yankees don't say it as much as us Southerners, but you know, it's meant to be a respect thing. It's the only way we would ever answer our mommas.

Death: been thinking about it a lot the last couple days. See, today is my birthday...37. Last year at this time I just lost the baby and I took my birthday off Facebook so no one would wish me happy anything. I couldn't even see straight and people wanted me to smile about being another year older. It was a terrible year...but I learned a lot.

Yes, I believe what they say about the butterflies. They seek me out after I lose someone. After the baby one came and fluttered over my head and around me a little too long as I laid in the grass contemplating. My father in law, the only person I would I ever respect enough to call my Father, died on July 23. We went to stay at his house with his wife and arrange the memorial. A giant swallowtail kept bumping his head against the sunroom glass as I sat in there. He died in the sunroom.

And here I am pregnant again. I was done, on prometrium to bring on a cycle to get an IUD put in and the cycle never came. The withdrawal method does NOT work, by the way. Twins. And then one didn't make it. So we are awaiting our little fighter...a little boy. Due at around the same time we lost his grandfather. Ironic...how a time of remembering a lost love will also be a time of welcoming a life...knock knock.

So on my birthday today I am grateful for where I am and who I have HERE with me NOW on this plane of existence...and I am very aware of how fragile it all is...sitting in this strange place between gratefulness and fearing to hope too much.
April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTanya
When I stumble in here, I stumble out my head high and my heart beating faster in the best way.
April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth
I've been wondering.
About the fleeting moments. Like making eye contact with someone in a car going the other way. Where is there path taking them? How can we live so close, but so far apart? Someone said (I think a dead musician) in every face to face encounter you leave a part of yourself behind. Who takes pieces of me without my even noticing? Sometimes it feels like we're all just birds swerving and swooping. From a distance it looks like we're acting as one, but really we're all seperate, never bumping into each other.
April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMisty
That was such a beautiful post. But I have a much more earthly-based view of death. Maybe it comforts me to think of death as a alternative version of death. Whatever it is, I don't see the dead as having any more answers than we do, or being "wise." If there is an afterlife, I visualize the soul of a cantankerous person to be a cantankerous soul, bugging people in heaven as much as he did in the local supermarket in Toronto. I know this makes no sense, but it is what I truly believe.
April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNeil
I work with hospice patients/people weekly so I think about stuff like this a lot. it does require the occasional 6 pack because it is one thing to think about it, another the see it, be in a home that is in the midst of asking so many of these questions, finishing the hour with the person and then gently closing the front door as I leave. Sometimes it feels wrong to be able to leave everytime,
makes me wonder about the time when I won't be able
to leave because it will be my house.

Despite working with the dying, I have little answers. It just makes me realize that living daily is a very nice and good thing. I do hope I get to retire after this round though, rather be cosmic dust the next time around.
April 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMamie
I kind of agree with Neil, I am sure (and I mean this with all respect) Jesus got on somebody's nerves. Sinless doesn't mean you don't have quirks. Yes, after life with annoying quirks! I like that. Less pressure to perfect myself :) I'm editing a book right now about losing a child and how this family coped with a sudden and tragic loss. She's a friend and I didn't know her when this happened so I've been hanging out with her looking at her one way and now, I know her other son, her other life through the book, it seems so weird because she is so at peace and happy but she hasn't always been. It's brutally honest and it has me thinking about myself, am I that strong. What would I do if it happened to me? that kind of stuff. Assesing myself. I didn't go for the beer but I did tackle a 6 pack of oatmeal cream pies through the process. Now I'm tackling the track and the scale because I'd like to look into this lust stuff a little more ;) Great post as always my literary Yoda.
April 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjen/LA
I wrote something about wasted time last year when a friend died, and how I felt this overwhelming need to just DO something. Move forward, take a risk, stop wasting precious moments. Grab life. I remember getting responses that almost felt like pats on my head - there there. You're doing your best, we all have days like that. I shook my head at my own failing to express what I was really feeling. And here you are doing it for me.

So yep. It's on my mind quite frequently. And an ice cold ale helps.
April 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermosey
Just got through the second anniversary of my husband's death due to an accident so this post is very timely! Not fair indeed. All of the things we used to joke about together...like "I will come back and haunt you if you do such-and-such!"...they could be real now and I don't know if he is haunting me as a joke or if that strange shit just happens like it always used-to. And he now knows the real truth about those deep discussions we had about religion and life after death and god or no god. I almost don't remember anymore what that life was like, to be his wife and partner and friend. I keep thinking that at least he will be there to explain it all to me once I am with him again. And we can laugh together when we talk about how I fought with the lawnmower and snowblower while he was basking in some glow somewhere with all of the answers :)
April 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaureen
There was a time when death came to people I knew and, with a slight shift of circumstances, I could easily have died instead. I wasn't close to them, but I wished I could take their place. Not because I wanted to die, but because I wanted them to live. I was comfortable with dying, and still would be if it weren't for the fact that I don't want to leave my children without a mother. So many times since their death I have wondered about how they would've spent their life, and how I've spent mine. It's always a sobering thought, causing me to be grateful for the life I have and long to do it justice.
April 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterQuadelle
your words are a gift to read. i think we see the world in a similar way. what last promted me? my nan. i wrote a blog post about it :)
you know, for the superbored you.


xo leel.
April 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterleel
one of the things i often think about in regards to my dead fiance/father of my children is "damn! he didn't even know if he believed in an afterlife and now he's the one who gets to know all the good stuff."
April 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
The other night as I stood before the bathroom mirror putting expensive all natural night cream on my face, I said to Dave who was in the other room, "If I don't get to be a spoiled pampered cat in my next life, I want to have perfect skin, and be a woman, because perfect skin it totally wasted on a man." He responded, "Sounds fair enough."
April 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGal
You are one of those rare writers: a challenge to read, but worth the effort. Found you at Jenny Lawson's. I'm subscribing.
April 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFred <Miller
the possibility that death could whisper anywhere near my angels -my babies- almost makes me want to devour them back into me to protect them from this cruel world. and then devour the world as well.... just in case
April 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterangelica
Not for everyone. Not everyone LIVES when they know they are going to die. In fact, we all know we're going to die and few of us LIVE. Having just gone through the dying with my father he is a perfect example. Full of regrets for living when he finally accepted the terminal diagnosis three years later and three years too late. Not a lot of living happens in a Palliative Unit. Just a lot of waiting, handholding, and talking.

Discussing death with the girls has been good. Yes, good. They are kids so everything is concrete and ridiculously literal. Keep the afterlife stuff out of it and they bring the perspective. It isn't the perspective for everyone, but it is ours.
April 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl Arkison
lost the family patriarch last fall...feel like there is an edge, a seam that bounds this life against what is next...then lost a former co-worker in a fiery plane crash, it could have been me...but i'm here with my three little ones and have this persisting thought, "what if no matter what, it all works out ok?" (because there really is so little control we have anyway)
April 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterT
My great-aunt died. She was old - 92 - and I wrote her eulogy and delivered it.

The more I thought about it, about her, the sadder I got. She'd been a widow for thirty years. She spent a third of her life without the love of her life. She wanted children, but "it never really happened, dear". She was gentle, and kind, and giving and good.

How was she not bitter? I'm bitter some days because there's pee on the floor. And I have so very many blessings. I don't just have a baked potato, I have a hand-piped stuffed double baked potato, with green onions and butter. How can I make sure I skip being bitter about accidentally getting sour cream that was fat-free? (That is, incidentally, a metaphor AND a description of part of our Easter dinner.)

Hm. I think I may wander back to my blog with this, to continue thinking, but I'll let this stand here too.

PS: I retreat to knitting with copious jujube application. I'd drink, but hangovers make me feel like a bad mom and I can't knit drunk. Well.
April 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKourtney
Nice article, thanks.
April 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersewa mobil

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