Monday, April 18, 2011

THE LESSONS BEFORE DYING AND AFTER THEIR GONE, AND OTHELLO

Who hasn't heard the tragic story of Othello and his trusted - not to be trusted - ensign Lago. Because of its varied and current themes of racism, love, jealousy, betrayal, and deceit, I am using it to open my post. In that play all the antagonist died and many messages were left behind.  But, if you have not read the play or seen the movie, turn your head because I am going to speak on the scandalous dog named Lago (for a second). Iago is upset with Othello for promoting a younger man (Cassio)  above him, and tells Roderigo,  a rich and dissolute gentleman, that he plans to use Othello for his own advantage. Iago's argument against Cassio is that he is a scholarly tactician with no real battle experience from which he can draw strategy; in contrast, Iago has practical battle skills. Okay, that's all well and good, the man was lobbying for a position, but he takes his plan to the dark side. He bends the ear of Othello and convinces him that his loving, adoring and faithful wife, who treats Othello like a god, is slipping and sliding - creepin' - with another man. Damn!  I even hate thinking about what happened next, however, Othello strangles his wife to death.

Now, although my post has similar subtle themes of  deceit, love and death,  the following is where I am at today.

In my community we have a barn theater and I am thinking about auditioning for a play "A Lesson Before Dying".  The play is based on a novel by Ernest Gaines. One of the main characters is a formally educated African American teacher (Grant) who often feels helpless and alienated from his own country. In the story, Grant is the only educated black man in the area and the only member of the black community who might be considered capable of becoming free of overt oppression.

The title of this novel is imperative in understanding one of the major themes. The entire book focuses on Grant’s attempts to teach Jefferson a lesson. In order for Grant to be able to show Jefferson how to ‘become a man,’ he must himself understand the meaning.

While preparing for the play, my thoughts drifted from the character Grant, to my own lessons before dying, which took me back to a post I wrote 1 year ago. It follows:

Death! What is it good for?

Today I am laying out my black suit. My favorite uncle passed away,  he was 81 yrs old. I've been asked by my family to say a few words. I've been here before.

I gave the eulogy at my father-in-law's funeral. He died 9 months ago. My favorite aunt passed away 3 months ago. I spoke at her husbands funeral 20 yrs ago. He, my uncle Wallace, took me on my first hunting trip and bought the suit I wore to my father's funeral. I spoke at my aunts funeral.  Gosh, so many memories, so many messages,

Now it's time to say goodbye to my Uncle Scooner. He was a wise man and a very good man. I've been searching for the right words to say. I will be standing in front of my family and friends. I want to say what's right,  NOT merely "say" it right.

Death can be a learning process for the living. I've had a few personal experiences that required me to look deep into it's meaning and the lessons left behind.

My wife passed away from cancer. From her diagnosis to the end, our time spent together was probably  one of the better parts of our lives. When the end is inevitable, life takes on a different meaning. False images of success lose their luster and the true meaning of love blossoms.

Two weeks before her passing the doctor told me there was nothing else they could do. He suggested I take her home from the hospital. My wife was in great spirits. On the surface no one couldn't tell she was dying but the end was near. I left the hospital to prepare a place for her in our home. A special bed was needed along with several machines that needed monitoring day and night. I felt overwhelmed. When I arrived back at the hospital, my wife greeted me with a smile. She was strapped in a gurney waiting for me to take her home. We had traveled many roads together and now I felt lost and alone. I didn't know how I was going to do all the things necessary to keep her comfortable. When she greeted me, I didn't want to show my fear but my face couldn't hide it. My wife asked what was wrong? I told her I didn't think I could do this. She looked at me and gave me another smile. She said we will do the best we can. When I heard the word we, I knew she was worried about me. We would travel the road together, just like we've done in the past. She was prepared for her next journey.

Over the last few days our communication was reduced to small movements of her toes. She could hear me but she couldn't speak or move most of her body. I slept underneath her bed with a string tied to me so I could feel her subtle movements. She had faith in her god. She didn't fear death. It would be years before I found that same faith.

My father passed away under similar circumstances.

All my family is in town today. My uncle was a good man. I hope I can find the right message.

1 comment:

Big Mark 243 said...

Thanks for sharing this.