It took me a while to reply to this. To be honest, this time it was mostly because I got a bit emotional. Okay, so very emotional. Don’t worry; you didn’t say or do anything wrong. In fact, you’re a really nice person and your words are wise and very welcome. This is all my fault; I knew what I was signing up for when I started asking about lonely immortals and all. I thought I was ready to handle all the answers, but apparently I wasn’t. At first I wasn’t even sure if I should write any of this. I figured I could just pretend I was okay and talk about books – I really like the King Arthur –legends too! And I once picked up one of Stephen King’s books – Pet Sematary. It was pretty cool, even though I couldn’t finish it because it made me too sad.
I could also ask you about all the nice places you’ve visited during your long life. Or maybe I’d ask you to tell me even more about your family and the adventures you’ve got in. Or dragons! Those dragons sound so amazing! I really wish I could have a dragon-friend. Especially the singing kind. Maybe the dragon could sing while I played the guitar and we could be the coolest band ever.
See? So many nice things I could talk about. But I thought about it for a long while, and I realised that I really want to talk about the sad things with you too. So I asked if it was okay if I told you, and it was.
I have to explain something first. It’s a secret. A really huge secret. So you can’t tell anyone about what I’m going to say. I trust you; you’ve told me so much about you and your family, and you seem like such an honest guy.
Okay, so here goes:
I have an uncle.
Wow, that doesn’t sound nearly as awesome as I hyped it up to be. I mean, he’s not even my real uncle. He’s my best friend but I call him uncle because he’s much, much older than me. He’s much older than anyone, really.
You see, he’s Death. Yes, that Death. The Grim Reaper. The guy who collects everyone’s souls when they die. The very concept of dying made sort of physical. I think that since you’ve had so many magical things happen to you in your life, you’ll believe me and don’t think I’m crazy. You probably don’t even find it all that weird. I also think that this may explain why I’m so okay with supernaturals and immortal people writing to me. And why I’m so curious about death and not afraid of it. I mean, yeah, I am afraid of the unknown that comes after death, but I’m not afraid of death itself. He’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Well, I mean, you’ve already met him, since you’ve died. I don’t know what kind of experience you had with meeting him as a person, actually. Or if you even saw him at all since you went to sleep when you died. But still, trust me when I say that he’s really a total sweetheart. He likes tea and nature and loves his job but hates the grief it causes for the living beings. He takes a human form when he’s around me and other people. When he’s not on the job, I mean. And sometimes on the job too.
We call him Tad. It’s short for Thanatos.
I first met him when he came for my mum. When I was still little and all alone with a newly dead mother.
He was kind, so I latched onto him, and I think he got attached to me right away too. And now I couldn’t imagine life without him as a friend. And I don’t have to, really. Because I know he’ll always be around.
But that’s also what made me so emotional. I know he’s lonely. He’s usually not good at making friends, and I know that makes him sad. So I thought that maybe someone like you could tell me about the ways to deal with being immortal and alone – even though you’re thankfully not alone. I hoped you could also tell me how to deal with loved ones passing away so I could maybe help my uncle. You’re really lucky indeed to have so many people around you forever.
Whenever I bring up immortality or eternal loneliness or anything like that, my uncle usually dismisses it and says it’s not my job to worry about that stuff. That I should just worry about life instead. But I can’t just stop. I keep thinking what it’ll be like when I get older… when it’ll be my time and he has to be the one to send me away from him forever. Because he says that eventually, the souls of the dead pass on to a place where he can’t go.
I asked him about immortal people the last time he visited me. It was not long after I got your latest letter. He said that immortality is usually not meant for people, and that he shouldn’t really be too involved with the few people who do somehow become immortal. It’s probably frowned upon in some cosmic rules. And I guess that was his way of telling me that he usually doesn’t make friends with the immortal people.
“I got new friends,” I said to him. We sat by a field in the evening, and I could smell hay and the approaching night, “Pen pals. They say they’re magical and immortal.”
“That is nice,” he said, “I am glad you are making new friends.”
“Do you know the people I’ve been writing to?”
“I know whom you mean. They are good people.”
I told him I didn’t want him to be alone. He said that he wasn’t, at the moment. I think he too was trying to make me think about living in the moment, like you did in your letter.
“What about when I pass away? Or when the others do?”
“Then I will be honoured to make sure your passing will go just right. You know that.”
“I could stay with you. Forever.”
It wasn’t the first time I’d said that to him. He smiled. Sadly.
“You really do not want to stay for that long,” he said, like always, but this time he added, “Forever is a matter of perspective. For you, a lifetime is a forever. For your new friends, forever is longer. Can you even imagine how long it is?”
“No,” I said. I still couldn’t.
“For me, it will be even longer than that.”
And that was it. End of that conversation. He asked me about my day, and even tried to tell a joke. He’s terrible at jokes. And I say that with love.
I know that I should be thinking about this more positively. To remind myself that Uncle Tad has other friends too. This other friend he has is already a mum, so Tad is becoming friends with her kids too. They’re nice kids, and I sometimes babysit them, even though I’m more used to spending time with people who are older than me. The kids’ mum jokes that Tad is like a family heirloom; his friendship passes on from generation to generation. Maybe I too will have kids someday, and Tad’ll be our heirloom friend too. He said he likes the sound of that.
Still, longer than forever is much longer than a human family tradition. And it’ll contain lots of goodbyes.
But I guess worrying won’t really help much because there isn’t much I can do, right? So I’ll try to live in the present more. To not worry about the future too much. It’s not easy a lot of the time.
My mind keeps going to the past and the future a lot. But I know you’re right; I should focus on just cherishing the time we do have. Cherish… that’s a nice word with a nice meaning. Maybe I’ll name my future kid that. If I ever have kids, that is. I don’t know yet.
Thank you for your stories. The story about the flowers at your Anne’s grave especially made me smile. Made me feel better. I too like to think that your Anne really does tend those flowers. Or at least her memory does. They must be beautiful. Maybe I too will leave some signs behind. Signs that I’ve loved things in this world. And the people and beings that are still here can remember me then and imagine I’m near. And cherish the time we’ve had.
Thanks for listening to me about this and again answering all my prying questions earlier. You really are very kind, Mr. Liam. And despite your letter making me feel emotional, it also comforted me. You have such a happy outlook on life despite all the things that have happened.
Maybe I’ll still ask you about your travels and adventures now. Or food. What’s your favourite food? I like risotto, especially the way my adoptive mum makes it. I also really like sandwiches. I often put peach and pineapple slices on them. And I love chocolate-coated ginger! That’s more like a snack or a candy, really, but it’s still food.
I’m glad your family is doing well now. I like hearing about them and getting to know them through you. I’m looking forward to your next letter.