As Americans, we tend to prize youth and view death and old age with lingering fear. “In the Gloaming” by Alice Elliot Dark takes us to 1990’s suburbia, where Martin escapes in his work to avoid confronting his terminally ill, 33 year old son Laird. Despite a failing immune system and an absent father, remarkably, Laird is able to find meaning in his last days by really connecting with his mother. Martin’s outlook on death, as a man driven by work and social status, represents the typical American view, but Dark shows us that possibility still remains even though the picture may look bleak.
Native American tribes such as the Laguna Pueblo see death very differently, as playing a vital role in the preservation of life. Leslie Marmon Silko’s “The Man to Send Rain Clouds” portrays the beautiful intricacy of the tribe’s burial rituals, where Teofilo’s passing will send rain clouds for the upcoming harvest. His death will ensure future abundance in life, leaving his survivors not in despair but in gratitude. My personal Memoir “Nik’s Last Meal” describes a relatable view on death, where our dog Nikolas is put down due to old age pains. This differs from “The Man to Send Rain Cloud” and “In the Gloaming” because an animal is involved, and generally, animals are viewed as quite subordinate to human concerns. Nevertheless, Nik’s passing teaches us that honor and grace can persist in the face of death. These works offer readers a wide spectrum of opportunity in facing our mortality. Looking at the messages of each, we can combat the grim reaper with caring, gratitude, and if we’re paying attention before it’s too late, redemption.