After His Conversation With Kathleen

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Meaning of life and death. Simplicity in one a view of life and death brings comfort as one old friend comforts another.

After His Conversation With Kathleen

He died on St. Patrick’s Day. Which meant nothing to him. The day, not his dying. He was never a holiday person and he wasn’t Irish. He wasn’t Catholic, either. He wasn’t anything by practice. Or belief. Which was not important and had no meaning to him. Until at last he gave in, gave up, and admitted to himself that he was dying. Some weeks later, two days before his death, he was taken to a hospice where his passage was greatly eased by morphine. It was more greatly eased by a conversation he had the night before he entered hospice care. Kathleen had come to see him at his home that night. Kathleen, who had been cleaning his home for the past 11 years. They were comfortable with each other. Kathleen was 60 and Larry was 79 when they met. The first thing he said to her was, How do you do, I’m Laurence Booker, but you can call me Larry, I’m on Viagra. - Recognizing this as a threshold moment, Kathleen shifted her grip on her vacuum cleaner and stared fixedly at a point just above his head, saying, Well, Larry, her voice easy but firm, how can I put this? Let me see.. -- And after a second or two, shifted her gaze back. It’s like this, she said. If a man needs Viagra to be interested in me, ppfffftttt. - And she waved a dismissive hand. Pausing first, to let it sink in, she added, You may call me Kathleen and held out her small hand for a shake. A firm grip, he noted. Now she sat by his knees, ignoring his patting at the space beside him in the bed and taking his large hand in both of hers asked, What is it? What is it, Larry? - Well, I’m dying, he said, his eyes blinking slowly and it seemed sadly. - I know, she said. I’ve watched four people die, Larry. My mother, my husband, my son and a fiancé. So, what is it? What is it that you’re upset about? About dying? --- He was bony and withered. Sunken now. It had been a long year. Wasting disease, is all he would say of it. Refused to say cancer, as his trousers slipped further and further and the women all said, Pull up your pants, Larry or Time for braces with that belt, Larry-boy, and he’d just smile and wink and say I’m on Viagra, you know, and they’d all bat their hands at him or flap their magazines and say things like tch, tch tch or pshaw, or just frown. --- Larry, Larry, love, she pressed his hand. What’s the problem? Are you afraid? - He raised his head, moving it from side to side in a no, but saying, I don’t think I would be if I knew where I was going. - Now he kept his eyes on hers without blinking. - Larry, well, and she sat back, a tiny woman who moved like a water bug, fast and purposefully, but stilled now. - What can I say to you? --- There was a moment then in which the house creaked in the wind and the only other sound was the old pendulum clock as it clicked its way onward. --- Well, let’s see, how to put this. She sat straight now, hooking her feet on the bed frame and joining her hands on her knees. - Larry! Do you remember being born? - Why, why, no, he said, sounding between confused and offended. - Well, you know that women have what’s called labor? - He nodded. Sure, he said, to birth the baby. - And you know they have to push and work hard to do that? she continued. - Well, yeah, he replied, now a bit nettled, uneasy even. - That baby, she said, don’t want to be born, Larry. It’s got everything it needs. It’s safe and fed and warm. And a woman has to really push that baby OUT, her hands illustrating her words, making shoving motions. And then, Larry. You were here. And born. - He was intent with staring at her and listening to her. - Now, she continued, I don’t know about Heaven, she shook her head, I know here, and she motioned around them, here is Hell, but Larry, and now she took his hand again resuming her earlier place close by his knees, what’s to say you won’t be in a whole new life? I don’t know what kind, her small head disclaimed any such expertise - or belief. It makes sense to me, she said. Another kind of birth, is death. Just another new life. - And she was smiling now as she looked in his eyes. - Well, he said, withdrawing his hand to pull at his robe, gathering it around himself. - Well, he said. I think I like that, Kathleen. I can do with that, I think. --- And that was his last conversation. The next day at the hospice care center, the one his long-estranged daughter, back to do this one last thing, had picked for him, he was put on a heavy morphine drip. So he wasn’t in pain. He was at ease when he died on St. Patrick’s Day, two days later. After his conversation with Kathleen.

Submitted: April 08, 2012

© Copyright 2022 Wilbur. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:



Poignant short story. I actually liked the reference to Viagra here and there as to me that indicated the steps humans take to prolong "youth" and resist aging. I am a firm believer in allowing nature takes its course for good or bad - looking after ourselves but not "chasing the dreams" of youth. Aging gracefully and approaching the inevitable with dignity.
Liked this a lot.

Sun, April 8th, 2012 4:12am


Thanks so much. I heard this from someone and couldn't get over how simple the analogy to birth could be in offering a way to think about what happens at death. Steps on no religious credo I'm aware of while providing a means of accepting death's inevitability. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, annat2again. May your day be bright. Kindest regards, Wilbur/Connie

Sun, April 8th, 2012 5:57am

Mike Stevens

The best analogy about death just being another stage of living that I've heard. Excellent Connie!

Sun, April 8th, 2012 1:29pm


Thanks, Mike. It amazed me when I heard it. So simple and it makes sense, does it not. You are ever a faithful reader.
Thank you for that and for your comments.
Many kind regards, Connie

Sun, April 8th, 2012 7:26am


Wonderfully written Connie, You create such believable charactor. The Viagra reference just adds weight to the quirkiness and hense the plausablity of Larry. Kathleen is delightful, I am sure we all know someone like her. The subject and the relationship infact the whole story feels warm and personal

You and your writing really are something to treasure


Sun, April 8th, 2012 9:25pm


That's so nice of you to say and so nice to hear of something I've written. Thank you so much. I love both Larry and Kathleen. I think all writers listen to what's said around them and pack such things as these away for passing on at a later time, don't you?
You are attentive, Dibs. Kindness personified, which is a bit of a treasure in itself.
Many warm regards, Connie

Sun, April 8th, 2012 3:48pm


i have never thought of the analogy of giving birth and dying the way you have presented it here....beautifully written are truly gifted

Mon, April 9th, 2012 5:12am


Nor had I. I overheard it. And thought it should be handed on. It is so simple, cutting past religion and credo and all such. I am glad it sounded that clear a note for you, as well. And thank you for your praise for my framing of it. That made my heart happy.
Kindest regards, Connie

Mon, April 9th, 2012 8:30am


I liked how she was able to come up with a way to connect him to a belief. Seems like she just dug in there and came up with the best story senario for him.
Not always an easy thing to get around systems of thought and bring up the right thing at the right time.
A fabulous story, you told it well.

Tue, April 10th, 2012 2:43am


Thanks. I had to share it, it is so simple and yet it offers a way out. Or in. Connie

Mon, April 9th, 2012 8:57pm

Steve Balsky

Wow! Powerful and moving stuff indeed. You have a great knack for flow and continuity. Loved it.

Thu, April 12th, 2012 3:08am


Thank you so much! Regards, Connie

Wed, April 11th, 2012 8:56pm

Bill Rayburn

Kathleen...angel of death.....

Can you imagine all the false platitudes, all the hollow rhetoric, the disingenuous dialogue that have been the final audible exclamation point to so many death bed scenarios?

I'd rather die alone than with people surrounding me who don't know that diaphanous, cheap emotional babblings are the very LAST thing I want to hear before going to the great Tiki Bar in the sky.

Kathleen's spirit should roam all the hospices in the world, dispensing her kind, vague, yet ultimately real 'last rights'.....we all know that reality is not for everyone...but those of us who strive for it every second that we draw a breath? We especially need it as we take our last....

Nicely done...subtle...very subtle...Bill

Sun, May 6th, 2012 3:26pm


Glad Kathleen spoke truly for you. She did for me. Thanks, Bill - many kind regards, Connie

Sun, May 6th, 2012 9:34am

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