Back in 2019, I would have never imagined my body’s survival into 2021. I expected to have already seen Heaven’s pearly states, a thorough life review, and some final judgment, a curt, quick command, “Away with ye.” Two months into 2021, I can honestly attest that this has been a year of death, just not mine.

I cannot comprehend the strangeness of not dying. Yet, several coworkers, my father, my ex-mother-in-law, and an ex-wife have passed. And we’re just nearing the end of February. At eighteen, I became too familiar with death. In May of 1978, I was busy in the naivety of asking God for decent grades, courage to ask the girl of my dreams (at that moment) for a date, and for the same girl to not reply, “Ew, gross. Go away.” By June, I trained for critical rescue missions, readying myself to meet death face-to-face, head-on. At the time, I never understood the rituals of many religions. No one in our family went to church regularly enough to interpret any religious text. For the better part of life, I unwittingly bowed, rose, stood, kneeled in unison with mourners of every age. As a result, death and I have a certain acclamation with each other.

Before January’s 2021 call, I had been expecting my father’s death for two years. However, I neither expected a year of COVID-19, nor the deaths of Karen Ann, mother ex-mother-in-law, or coworkers. For the last two months, the Angel of Death appears to some sly sniper, quick and efficiently killing off those surrounding me. I fear not death itself, but we will be the two sole survivors left for one grand battle.

When Karen Ann died, I demanded God answer, “Why?” I searched both mind and spirit, but solutions remain elusive. I found there are no f**king answers in times of death, only great anguish. Often, we don’t know what’s right or wrong, but lots of times, we do. In some cases, there were plenty of opportunities for it [death] not to occur. And between the slivers of moments laying between Heaven and Hell are found numerous leaders who will forever question their leadership and the newfound knowledge only they are responsible for another’s Hell.

My ability to relieve another’s burden is all but impossible. I cannot command unseen powers of Christ and say, “Lazarus, arise.” I have refused to barter with God, “Do this, and I will do that.” Sadly, at fifteen, woefully naïve, I even thought making a deal with the darkness might be a good deal. Fortunately, that deal never ‘sealed.’ What I have found is that terrific, kind-hearted, and generous people die. Would I have exchanged myself for their bullet? Hell, yes. But we cannot protect ourselves from lousy s**t. And we cannot shield ourselves from the constant fear of life.

Someone once told me ‘deals’ are the human form of prayer. I like that statement, as it certainly makes me feel better for any attempted deal(s) made in desperation. Instead, the ultimate relationship is kilned during death. Denying grief postpones wisdom and compassion. The sorrow of great and small losses channel through the underground rivers of our soul. When such grief bursts forth, we believe only we suffer such pain. Yet, during the first two months of 2021, two people have died from COVID every minute. It seems most problematic to be the one left alive, but if we learn to swim in the caverns of our heart, we shall find joy and peace in those we’ve lost.