...as told to me by various family members in my life.
Halloween, the upcoming All Soul's Day and the season have me contemplating death.
I don't think I'll die soon, though I haven't had a proper check up with the doctor in many years despite funneling money into health and dental insurance companies and hardly taking advantage of all their newfangled machines that suck out my blood and calculate the errors.
But recently one of my aunts has checked into a hospital for either pneumonia or TB. She's probably in her 70s and lived a great long life. She beat breast cancer and she'd beat this, through prayer and might. (I hardly pray now but in times like these I offer a prayer for her. You never know.)
She probably won't die soon either. But her hospitalization got me thinking of different things people in my family, Palauans and Pohnpeians, have pointed to after someone died and said, "Oh that right there, that was a sign."
Signs of impending doom/death
-White bird, yellow feet: There's a white bird with yellow feet around these parts, I don't know the Palauan name but my mom said that bird was flying around our house before my dad died. She said her mother had told her before it's a sign of someone about to die.
-Random ants: Also before my dad died, one of my cousins said she was cooking rice and then notice a trail of black ants that weren't there the day before. I overheard this conversation and she said she was told it meant something bad would happen.
-Dogs digging: Yeah, if your dog starts to dig a lot, (more than usual I guess?) it's a sign someone's sick or someone's going to die???? I know I've heard this but I can't source it in my memory....
-Dreaming of your teeth falling out: This used to fuck me up because when I had teeth dreams my mom said it meant someone would die. As a kid it's terrifying to feel you hold all this psychic, predictive power of someone's demise. But I didn't dream of any teeth before either of parents died so maybe I can dismiss this as a skill I have and just attribute my teeth dreams to the fact that I pay for dental insurance every month and still haven't been in dentist's office. (Fuck off ok my teeth are chill.)
I also just remembered a couple anecdotes that I've heard predicting birth, namely when there's a crow near your house and, if you have children already, around the time that you are pregnant supposedly the youngest of your herd will start to just generally want to be upside down more than usual.
Before my mother and father passed, I spent time a considerable time in hospitals, watching nurses poke, prod, deliver, smile and leave intermittently throughout a day. When they died, first my dad and then my mom, it was the worst feelings in my life. I'll never ever feel whole again. Also you just live your life with an empty suffering that feels like it could swallow the galaxy. It's in your soul and if you acknowledge it from time to time, it threatens to open up and like ingest you?
But at the same time you can live day to day and layer every new day over it, so you don't melt into the emptiness. Enough layers of days make it seem faraway until you remember something about them and then every good and bad day that you put between you and that emptiness disappears and then you feel every bit of soul crushing sadness that comes with the death of the first people you've ever loved without effort, without conditions. Just pure love.
I've spent a lot of time over the years trying to articulate how it feels when they died. This isn't exactly that feeling but I'll keep working on it.
I know I'll never suffer that much again because I take careful measure as an adult orphan and as a cancer not to let anyone in who can add to that emptiness. And I'll never really be afraid of death because where ever my parents are must be infinitely better.
I'm curious, if you're reading this, what are some superstitions or signs of death or doom in your culture? And how would you describe the feeling when your parent(s) died, if they have? (...she asks into the void that is the internet...)