On The Procession of the Living


Toritto on the Asmara – Massawa road – 1965

The services for Terry, who passed last Thursday were held yesterday, bringing together her family and friends to say farewell.  The day after her passing I had posted “Fields of Gold” on this blog which I had written almost a decade ago, several years after the passing of her baby sister, my wife and lover of 40 years.

As we exited the funeral home yesterday into the bright Florida sun and the din of traffic, nothing in the world had changed except of course that Terry was no longer here.

The sun still rose
the birds still sang
the radio in the car
still played.

Boys still ogled
girls still giggled
lovers still walked hand in hand.
Sting still led her favorite band.

I surely thought
the world would end
the spinning stop, the rapture come
but it did not.

Indeed, the radio in the car still played. Sometimes it takes awhile to learn that the universe doesn’t care if we are here or not.  I was 23 and in Africa in 1965 when I learned.


I was riding down a mountain on the treacherous Asmara-Massawa road in Eritrea to spend a few days at the beach.  Hairpin turns and switch-backs; cliffs and rocks with no guard rails to prevent one from running off of the road into the gorges.  But I feared not for I was 23 and immortal.

Riding shotgun in an aging Renault Dauphin, beer in hand, the theme from Lawrence of Arabia playing in my head.  Only one problem – the radio didn’t work.  Not that there was anything much to listen to  – Eritrean and Arab music mostly; but there was the radio station on our military base in Asmara.   Long live rock and roll!  Since the radio wouldn’t play however we were reduced to singing and drinking Eritrean beer.

Going around one of the hairpins there is a sharp “pow!”   Blown tire!  The rear engine Renault begins to steer erratically, veering toward the cliffs.  Sharp turn left and its straight into the rocky side of the mountain.  “Crash!”

The front of the Renault is crunched but everyone inside including me is ok, save for a small gash on my chin.

We all sat there for a moment, scared shitless at the thought of what might have been had we gone over the ledge.

Suddenly the radio began to play.  And we began to laugh almost hysterically.

We could have all been dead but that radio began to  play!  Looking at each other we knew the truth.  The universe doesn’t give a shit if we live or die.

Indeed if man were to disappear from the planet, life would thrive without us.  In half a million years or so, a moment in the lifetime of the universe, there would be no trace of us save perhaps the Voyager spacecraft wondering alone out in the darkness.

Those who spend their lives studying the universe tell us that it is thirteen and a half billion years old or so – unless of course you believe it is three thousand years old.  I personally am going to go with the larger estimation.  That being said I don’t remember any of it.  It all went by before the light of my consciousness; before I existed.

That is what I believe death is like  – it is the loss of existence.

It is surely possible that in the thirteen billion years of the universe’s existence there was another civilization, perhaps a billion light years away, which was in full flower a billion years ago until it disappeared leaving no trace for us to find.

The universe went on without them as it will go on without us. Without me.

I am not a religious man as you can probably tell if you waste your precious time reading this blog.  Religion strives to give meaning to our existence; we are not accidental – we were “created” for if we are the accidental results of evolution then we are no better or worse than our cat in the view of the universe.  And no more deserving.

And of course we all want to live forever –  eighty years more or less is much too little in the scheme of things.  And so religion tells us of the afterlife or reincarnation.   No religion teaches that it’s over when it’s over.

But I suspect that is the way it is – just like that first thirteen plus billion years before my consciousness, thus it will be for the next thirteen billions.

Nothing to fear really.

Within a year of my Renault encounter with life my mom died.  She was 43.

My son and my father in the same year – 1973.  My second son at age nine in 1985.  My wife and youngest brother in 2004, the adults all in their fifties.

I surely thought
the world would end

the spinning stop, the rapture come
but it did not.

No.  The world changed not one whit.  The radio in the car still played.  The only thing that changed was me.  With each passing I had to start anew; a different life.  A life without parents, without sons, without a wife;  to make an effort to give meaning to existence.

And so I love now for I know tomorrow those whom I love or I shall no longer exist.  I do not expect to see them again on that distant shore for I don’t believe there is one.  There is only now.

I have a grandson coming next month – my first grandchild.

The procession of the living goes on. He will go where I cannot; into the future.  He will be at the head of the procession; I am now bringing up the rear.

Carpe diem.



About toritto

I was born during year four of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Claudius on the outskirts of the empire in Brooklyn. I married my high school sweetheart, the girl I took to the prom and we were together for forty years until her passing in 2004. We had four kids together and buried two together. I had a successful career in Corporate America (never got rich but made a living) and traveled the world. I am currently retired in the Tampa Bay metro area and live alone. One of my daughters is close by and one within a morning’s drive. They call their pops everyday. I try to write poetry (not very well), and about family. Occasionally I will try a historical piece relating to politics. :-)
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5 Responses to On The Procession of the Living

  1. Lara/Trace says:

    Crying me again. If I could choose a relative, you would be it. YOU!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. GP Cox says:

    I know the feelings associated with starting over after a loss. As the last of my family, it’s difficult not to. It’s sad, but as you say – even when my own time comes – the car radio will play.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. beetleypete says:

    Life is like a grain of sand on a beach, sifted through our fingers. It matters not a jot, in the grand scheme of the universe. We know too much, yet nothing at all. Which is just how it should be…
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. inesephoto says:

    What a joy to have a grandchild. Wishing you well.

    Liked by 1 person

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