The sky hanger. Copyright Richard Ford.
Well, this is it then.
I suppose I must be dead.
It is the silence that gets me first. I cannot hear the wind although I can hear the faintest hum from traffic far below. I suppose the reason for this is that I no longer have ears and so the wind passes through me.
I ought to be excited but in reality I feel- nothing.
Now that my old body has gone from me I am glad to see the back of it. It was nothing but a bother to me for at least five years or so. Why does anyone bother with bodies anyway if it so easy to do without them? I realised that I could control my altitude so I moved a little closer to see who enters and leaves the home.
How I hate family fuss! The power games that go with death! Who has the right to be most upset and who has the right to be comforted! Why do people fight and compete to be associated with it all? Would they do it if they knew how banal and unremarkable it all was? Probably. It has nothing to do with my death at all really and everything to do with being the one to organize the funeral.
Would I still be hovering around here when the funeral started? It all seems so..... Indecisive. When I started rising an hour or two ago I thought I was going to heaven despite all expectations. Now I just seem to be hanging around like a balloon caught in a tree.
I try to move out across the open fields but lose momentum. I would be good to see something of the world even if I am dead. Unfortunately being dead seems to have robbed me of my appetite for, well, life. I was always so full of life even when I was dieing. People would come to sit with me- a cancer patient- to be cheered up. I was always rather proud of that and it rather scandalised my wife who has now appointed herself focal point of all grief. It was hard for her to do this before- poor thing- when I was alive. How could she gather the family around her when they would rather visit me in hospital and come away laughing. She puts such a downer on things. 'There is no point in worrying about death because it is the ultimate nothing!' I would tell her. Still, she would persist in her solemn preparations, insisting on briefing everyone of every step in my demise. Still... I am sure she is happy in her way and I did not want to spoil her big day by taking her out of the spotlight.
We have three children. One of each I used to tell Judith, my wife. He did not like this sort of talk as she was a nominal Christian and one of my two daughters is a lesbian. Somehow Judith seemed to blame me for this as if my lack of solemnity somehow contributed to it. In fact I was rather amused. I have lived a rather conventional life, supporting my family and working hard. I have never regretted this. Life is not always fun and you take what it throws at you. I held the family together even though Judith saw herself in this role- always organising family get events and so on. We had our differences but I was part of a generation that believed in duty. You cannot just discard the idea of duty because it is part of who you are...... anyway we brought up three fine children. I am proud of them all.
I opted for a Humanist funeral because I have never believed in a God and because I wanted to give those pofaced Methodists Judith brought round the house all the time something to talk about. A Humanist funeral and a lesbian daughter! I am surprised they could even drink the tea without choking. I wondered if there was still time to change my funeral choice, since there seemed to be some sort of an afterlife- even if it was not that exciting as yet. I decided that Ian, my Humanist funeral director was probably not the sort of person to visit mediums so contacting him would be a waste of time. It would be nice to tell somebody (preferably a religious person) just what happens after death but I did not know how to do it. Perhaps they all go to heaven anyway and I am being kept down here as a punishment for my humanist views and lesbian daughter- I never thought God was a particularly reasonable or trustworthy sort of person based upon the bible so this seemed just the sort of meaningless cruelty he might inflict.
Perhaps I was now a demon! This cheered me up a great deal. I could torment the Methodists! Provoke orgies in the community hall! Slaughter black cockerels in the churchyard.
Perhaps the devil has a special department for humanists who did not believe in him.
This was worth exploring. I felt my spirits rise. I had all of eternity ahead of me and no responsibilities of any kind! All I had to do was learn how to control my movement and I would be free!
I willed myself forward time and time again. Each time I would move forward only a few feet and then come back. I was getting so frustrated and angry that I was even considering praying to God but was worried to draw His attention to me. What if I were supposed to be in hell as a non believer? Perhaps I had simply been forgotten in a clerical error.
No. I would not risk it yet.
Perhaps I would be free after the funeral. I would do my duty and wait for Judith to have her day and then I would escape.
Nightfall. A little light rain.
Another day of waiting. Another night. More waiting.
At last the funeral, but no release!
I am still here overlooking the house in which I lived dutifully for most of my adult life! Am I to remain here forever?
Panic. Depression and finally a form of acceptance.
One dull morning I am looking out over the railway tracks and see a fox. I marvel at the simplicity of its life and its freedom.
Suddenly I am that fox! I feel what the fox feels- I can smell all of nature. I am free.
Then I realise the secret of my freedom. It is to stop thinking of myself as a part of the family. I am not someone who has to be released from my role as husband and father by my wife or anyone else. I can become something else instantly by choice.
I should have realised that twenty years ago when I was still alive.