Today I read the last words of a reporter who blogged his own death. His name was Mark Mooney, and I don’t know what kind of reporter he was in life, but in death he was exactly the way I feel a writer should be – direct, evocative, personal, with a clear, quiet voice that speaks directly through your ear and into your heart.
The utter lack of sentimentality with which he wrote seared my heart in a way that the picture of his ravaged body and bald head, his tears and attestations of love never could have. I tell the husband, and he strokes my hair. We’re all going to get there, he says, and I give him a watery smile; reminding each other of our imminent mortality has become a thing between us. Not a joke exactly, though we are both fond of dark humor. It’s not even a reminder, really; more like a regretful acknowledgement of the inevitable, a psychological double down to make the fast-slipping time left to us matter more.
We are just into our fifties, the husband and I. The reporter was 66 when he died; he’d lived for more than a decade with the cancer that finally claimed him early this month. I find myself thinking that October will be remembered for its cruel beauty for the ones he’s left behind –a wife, two kids. My holy trinity, he called them, and there is something sacred in this, to me, him saving his finest reporting until the end, this eulogy not so much for himself as for all that he has loved and is losing.
This weekend is the annual Fleet Week program in San Francisco, a display of American aeronautical military (and taxpayer) might and precision that sends sonic booms ricocheting across the bay with a thump residents can feel through their core. From our roof, the husband captures a shot of two navy jets roaring directly overhead printing the sky with heroic blue and gold, seeming mere inches apart. The contrails hang in the air for minutes afterward, long white exclamation marks: see what we can do! It dawns on me that humanity experiences this sight in just two ways: as an entertainment, or a promise of death.
The thunder of deadly patriotism reaches a sustained crescendo on Saturday, so we bug out and head to Tahoe, our chocolate Labrador with his head thrust deliriously into the slipstream of the 4 Runner, the shadow of the husband’s roof-mounted mountain bike racing along beside us. It is a textbook Indian Summer day, the air so clear you can see from Mount Diablo to the Farallons. The hills of the wine country glow pale gold against a light denim sky. Flooding from recent extreme rainfall has receded, and the miles of dusty peach trees and almonds and late corn blanket the fecund Sacramento valley in myriad shades of green. I think about the reporter leaving the world in the midst of all of this beauty, his trinity of lost love, but the day is too fine for sadness – something I think the reporter would understand – and I give myself over to the persistent pleasure of the breeze blowing through my hair, the golden light that lays on everything like a blessing.