Friday, May 31, 2013

A Good Death

A year and some ago, I wrote a post that you'll have to go back and read for this to make any sense. You can find that post here.

I just refound and read it because I came across an obituary in the paper this morning that read:

Phyllis Straus

Phyllis Lindsey Straus was born on July 20, 1928. She died peacefully in her bed next to her beloved dog Solly on April 19, 2013. There is no doubt that if she could have chosen her death that would have been it.

There is more. The tender, bare outline of her life events but it is in those first lines that I am dumbfounded because in the conversation we had which sparked the post, that is exactly how I told her I wished she would die.

And she did it. 

I am thinking about her this morning and how I'd see her car at the Post Office, a beat-up old Volvo with a Janet Reno for Governor bumpersticker on it. She was not a small woman, she was a woman who even as she became frailer and slower you could just look at and know that once she had been very powerful, very strong, and she had to have been in order to do the giant sculpture that she did. She had those bright blue piercing eyes. She was fiercely independent. She was something. 

When I lived in the house she had bought from us and that she died in, I had planted a rose on the garden fence and it was the reddest, most blooming, fragrant rose I've ever seen and ever since I've been trying to figure out what its name was but I have never been able to and none of the roses I've looked at after talking to nursery people are the same. I wonder if that rose was still growing in her yard because if it was, it was probably blooming when she died. 
I hope it was. With all my heart, I hope it was.

I am thinking about that and her and I am thinking of how that little Cracker house which I did love so very much had two front doors and I was told that back when the house was built, that's how they did it. One door was used for the everyday comings-in and goings-out of the living and the other only used for coffins to enter and leave, empty and then filled. I wonder if they passed Phyllis out that door. I doubt it. Who observes customs like that anymore? 
It doesn't matter. 
What matters is that Phyllis Straus was able to die there, in her home that she loved with her dog whom she adored, some of her giant sculptures in the yard, her art which gave her life purpose. 

Well. It is a slow, quiet day in Lloyd and one of our inhabitants is gone and has been for a month and a half and I am not sorry she's gone because the way she left was perfect and exactly what she wanted. I am not sad at all, but thrilled for her. She got that job done and she did it right. 

I would wish the same for all of us- such a death. 

Meanwhile, life goes on for us who still live here. I took my walk and I saw a few people and said hello and I've taken the trash and gone to the Post Office where I will never see that Volvo again and don't remember rightly the last time I DID see it but I don't think it was that long ago. We never did talk again, me and Phyllis. We didn't have to. We said what we needed to say when we had that conversation back in January of 2012. And I'm glad we said it. 

All right. I've got stuff to do. The living are so busy, aren't we? But I'm thinking about Phyllis and I'm thinking about that house I loved and over the course of this one morning two magnolias which I can see from where I write on the back porch have opened up from their tight buds into full-flung and white-petaled flowers and their scent drifts on the air. It all goes by so quickly. Pay attention and do whatever it is that makes you feel alive because life is so short and the years that we can do what we love are even shorter.

Happy Friday, y'all.

Love...Ms. Moon


  1. I am. I am paying attention. And you help me to do so.

  2. I'm trying to pay attention. I think sometimes that is why i blog. thank you for this thoughtful post.

  3. Thank you. Damn am I trying to pay attention. It's my favorite pastime, but like other hobbies sometimes it's on and off again.
    There are times I'm on the train and I think - open your chest, don't forget to look up. It's a good mantra.

  4. i remember that old post, i really loved it, that real conversation about death.
    may we all be attentive and may we all have such a beautiful death.

  5. You are making a difference in my life with your true sharing...such wise words...and your pictures! Word pictures and photography! Thank you.
    I am encouraged, now may you be blessed by the same.

  6. To do anything at all on your own terms and in the manner you wish is to accomplish something great. To achieve this in death is the last brush stroke of a master.

  7. A little off topic, have you considered taking a stem of that rose and rooting it?
    Just a thought.

  8. Amazing. We should all, every last one of us, be so lucky to die in our sleep in our own bed with someone special beside us. I am so happy for her.

  9. Isn't it amazing that Phyllis got her wish? There's a lot to be said for a good death. I hope Solly has some kind of safety net!

  10. Elizabeth- And you remind me. Always.

    Angella- It sure is part of the reason I blog. And the blogs I love to read are part of it too. Yours is a shining example.

    Rachel- Seems like we humans spend a lot of time trying to just get from one moment to the next, one activity to the next, one place to the other. And that's okay, too. But sometimes...we have to stop and remember to be aware.

    Yobobe- Amen, sister woman. Amen.

    Big Sister- Hello and howdy and thank you for those sweet words. I am glad you are here.

    Juancho- You're a damn Zen master. I love that about you.

    Michelle- I have thought about it. I don't even know if the bush is still there. I should maybe go take a drive and see.

    Jill- Yep. And if that someone is your beloved dog, well, more's the better.

    Steve Reed- I hope so too. I really do.

  11. My son called me this morning to tell me about Phyllis and I thought about your post about her from last year so I came here. She was a wonderful person and I am so happy she died in her bed with Solly by her side, exactly the way she would have wanted to go. She had a wonderful life and she influenced so many art students at FSU including my son. He really admired her and her work and without her, I'm not sure he would have finished his degree. She was so beautiful with those blue eyes and that wonderful complexion even in her old age. She showed me a picture of herself when she was young and she looked exactly like Angelina Jolie. She will be missed so much.

  12. Lois- I wish I had known her better. I really do.


Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.