In my mind, a recurrent image of death is that of a five-year-old girl dressed in all white communion dress lying still in an open casket in the mortuary of my village cemetery.
Growing up, I knew that people usually died of old age. Sometimes, people died unexpectedly from unexplained circumstances. But, dying at an age younger than me? I was eight years old, and, no matter how much you tried to persuade yourself otherwise, encountering death before you had a chance to live life seemed odd.
In the hills where I grew up, children were exposed to death as if it were a routine event in their daily lives. Death was always around the corner to stare you in the eyes. The lifelessness of the five-year-old girl is a permanent memory in my brain. I cried so much that you could most likely fill a bucket of water. I shed tears not because I was sad about the young girl being lifeless, but because I suddenly realized that death could also happen to me. Death did not differentiate between the young and the old, or the good and the bad.
Summing things up, I concluded that something in the scheme of things was not fair. There we were, enjoying the gift of life. Yet, it could suddenly be gone. There was no alternative. The only path to take was to discipline oneself to accept death as part of life. So, happily and freely, I ran around the cobblestones of my village, unconcerned about encountering dark endings. Along the path of my daily excursions, the same aged man, sitting on the same chair, facing the same direction at the same time, noon, absorbed the tenderness of the Sicilian sun. I couldn't help thinking that life should end just like that: slowly. Like a candle burning its inner wax core in its due course and of its own accord in perfect balance with its engulfing oxygen bubble.
In later years, before his last breath, my dad, with a circular crescent motion of his right hand, waved goodbye. It was peaceful. At that moment, I felt tender warmth emanating from his lifeless body. The gravitational mass of my dad's body was lying still, but his real body, intangible spirit, was evaporating from that non-operable mass to travel afar, beyond time and space, to nothingness, where all things no longer have a delineated life form.
Co-existing with COVID-19, the possibility of illness, and the probability of death have revived my childhood death images. As a human, I embrace the obligation of ensuring other people's wellbeing. With a spirit of pluralistic collaboration, we build the foundation for the quality of life that our future generations will experience.
I dedicate this poem to all fellow humans that put their lives on the line to keep their fellow humans alive.
La Presenza della Speranza
Vestita come la neve
Sembravi un angelo
Ma eri senza vita
Sono sola, sono triste, vieni con me
E piansi non per te’ senza vita
Ma per me rincorso dalla morte
Mi accorsi di scappare sempre di piu’
Per sfidare la vita e fuggire dalla morte
Mi accorsi di fermarmi sempre di piu'
Per sfuggire dalla vita e sfidare la morte
Mi accorsi che la vita ti sfugge
E che la morte non rincorre
Sicura, calma, serena
Allora pian piano fermati
Sicuro, calmo, sereno
Allora pian piano
Accogli la morte
Come se fosse un amico
The Presence of Hope
Dressed like snow
You looked like an angel
But you were lifeless
I am alone, I'm sad, come with me
I ran away trembling
And cried not for you without life
But for me by death chased
I saw myself escaping more and more
To defy life and to flee from death
I saw myself stopping more and more
To defy death and to flee from life
I saw that life gets away from you
And that death does not chase
Sure, calm, serene
Then slowly stop
Surely, calmly, serenely
As if it were a friend