If you haven’t read Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, you’re missing out. And if you haven’t read the appendices of the same, you’re definitely missing out because it contains one of the most achingly beautiful stories. It is the tale of Aragorn and Arwen after the War of the Ring. For many years, Aragorn ruled Gondor with Arwen at his side, but he had decided it was his time to pass on.
“ “At last, Lady Evenstar, fairest in this world, and most beloved, my world is fading. Lo! We have gathered, and we have spent, and now the time of payment draws near.”
After Aragorn passed Arwen took her leave, said farewell to those she loved, and left Minas Tirith for the land of Lorien where she “laid herself to rest.” This causes me to wonder, “What must it feel like to accept death so gently? What state of mind is attained when you decide that right now is the right time to die?” And thinking of this question brings to mind an anecdote from Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember, an account of the sinking of the Titanic.
“Tonight the Strauses came on deck with the others, and at first Mrs Straus seemed uncertain what to do. At one point she handed some small jewellery to her maid Ellen Bird, then took it back again. Later she crossed the boat deck and almost entered No. 8 — then turned around and rejoined Mr Straus. Now her mind was made up: “We have been living together for many years. Where you go, I go.”
A different scenario to that of Aragorn and Arwen, but still a coming to terms with death.
When I consider my own life, I sometimes think about old age. Will I write and bear witness to reality until my final breath? Or will I feel the approach of mortality, lay down my metaphorical pen, wrap up my affairs and prepare to die? If I settle all scores, discharge all obligations and tie up all loose ends, will I feel light and unburdened and ready to depart? Will such lightness cause a shift in my perception and understanding? And if it does cause such a change, what’s to prevent me from attaining that change right now? Only myself, I suppose. But I’m young. I have things to love and live for. Teetering on the precipice between life and death, I’d fight not to fall. But maybe I should be as comfortable with the fall just as much as the fight? Perhaps I should live like I’m ready to die?