Today I bought myself a picture book. Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch has drawn me in with its gentle story and original illustrations. Duck is initially startled to find that Death has been following her around 'just in case'. While Death himself means her no harm and in fact is 'really quite nice', life takes care of illness and accidents and Death will be on hand. Duck invites Death to enjoy her pond and they climb a tree where they philosophise together. Duck even offers to warm Death up. They become constant companions until the weather cools and Duck in her turn asks Death to warm her. When he sees that she has stopped breathing and is quite still, Death gently places her in the river and watches till she disappears from sight. He is almost a little moved but 'That's life, thought Death'. On the last page he is hanging out with a rabbit and a fox - his smile suggests he'll be needed there soon.
A month ago I was shocked to learn that a friend had died on the other side of the world. When her husband and sister came to stay, we shared a bottle of wine and talked all evening. Their acceptance helped me to absorb and accept that lively, beautiful Frances has gone. Now Death is hovering around another friend who, between periods of exhaustion and confusion, is angry to find herself in Hospice. At this point she does not intend to 'go gently' into the night.
Duck's befriending of Death has shown me a way. I've been in denial and then in protest that those I have been close to can, suddenly in some cases, cease to exist. It still seems hard to understand, but acceptance offers a calmer path.