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What do you do with death?


When the most important person in your life ceases to exist, what are we left with? And yes, I know nothing is also an answer. I ask this because it just happened to me.


He is gone forever up close and personal, in the now real time. After I pass, will we meet again? I love to think so, but don't know really. Just happy I had one mentor and lifesaver and fellow crier to know in this lifetime.

Death came to me in shivers. I suppose it's natural to feel the wind is changing when the person is battling his third round of cancer. I get off work, eat dinner, listen to music and start crying. Even thousands of miles away, you can feel the air getting thinner as they grasp for more of it.


This man was responsible for the following:



One; he got me here in this very moment writing this article in Beijing years after we have met.

Next, welcoming me into the Everglades, Florida... A wilderness therapy prison for teenagers. No electricity, three meals a day cooked by the fire you start from the wood that you cut. Outhouses that we built and have to clean daily are there too. Prison in the swamp. Candlelit nights, headlamp night, hoping Black Panthers don't meander through our campsite looking for the food that we dropped. Letting me take his Mazda Miata convertible out for drives through sugarcane fields.


I took over his group of 14 inmates, 14 teenage boys that raped, murdered, stabbed or attempted robbing something or someone. "Chief Rick" (we were on Indian ground so I was "Chief James") took me under his wing, protected me, taught me, loved me, and excepted me,.


"James after our one year is done here, what only three months left? Let's move to Korea and teach English." Rick said to me nearing our finish line in the swamp.

8 1/2 years later I still haven't left Asia. He had problems getting to Korea and showed up a year later after me. Not many schools wanted to hire a 54-year-old, just working in a prison kind of man.




He got me to the hospital. Shocked back to life by the  as he was screaming at the doctors to keep me going until I came back. I wish he was here so he could tell you that whole story because he's the best storyteller I've ever seen, ever heard, and ever witnessed up close and personal. Some people can make facts the most thrilling moments, he did that.


So, that accident was six years ago. Twice I have been lucky from dying and came back, but now my last weapon is gone. Suppose next time it will be me and death, mono E mono. Just me and it. Guess I'll see when I'm really made of then with the help of no one.


So now I have this death in my mind. He's gone, that's it. Rick is now a memory. He will resurrect in glimpses of things that remind me of him. What should we do for this person?Should we celebrate their life? Mourn? Or simply forget and move on in that abstract form of acceptance? Drink, eat, not eat? Start showing up late to work? Uncontrollable crying at any moment, anywhere? Or is it as easy as not forgetting them, teach what they have taught us and thank the grace of the world they were placed in front of us? In those fleeting moments of remembrance, we often vow to lead a better life, seize more moments, live the life you really want and desire.


For me it's easy. I express that the only way I know how, with this pen and paper. I believe my question was, what do you do with death? I'm sorry for not being focused or profound. I'm pretty sure all I did was answer the question myself. Let's look at the only people who have taught me about death so far: my family.


1. My sister puts death in pictures.

2. My mom puts death in baking with chocolate.

3. My dad put his death on his sleeve and will cry and complain about it, at any moment.

4. All four grandparents, they buried theirs with far off stares and responses to questions that were incomprehensible.


"Grandpa, what the F___?" I would think to myself quietly, so quietly so he couldn't hear me thinking this thought because sometimes he could. A World War II vet who killed a lot of people and saw a lot of his friends die always made me scared with his version of what Death was.


Having been lucky to play in this game of Death twice now, it's very clear-cut: As a child, as an adult, I've had the pleasure of dancing with death so I know some of it's moves. And I have found out some secrets because I have a feeling it wins the third match. I'm not a cat, because if I have seven more lives I will live much more of an outrageous life. I am a product of luck, fate. I am randomness repeated.


I put death in every day. I can't help but to think I'm living on borrowed time every morning I wake up and every evening my eyes go into that dark slumber of sleepy darkness. Like one day, some people will come and find me and subtract years off of my life. There was a movie like that right? People have their amount of time on a watch/ you remember this? Different ways of adding and subtracting more or less years from your life? I deal with death by being scared to sleep because because I know that third time I won't be waking up.

What do you do with death?


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and stories about any and all of this.

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