Tonight, the bells on my doorway, wish to tell you a story. Tonight, I am just the hand, they are the voices.
There once lived a man, an old man. A very sorry man.
He lived by the sea in an old and hauntingly empty house. The walls were mouldy where it did not hide behind the pictures of all the people he had once loved, and died. His two wives, both taken away from him so young. His only son, who lived with him for 30 years before sacrificing his life for war. His brother, whom he had seen only twice during their last 20 years. His 3 dogs.
Yes, it was a hauntingly empty house.
Long time ago, he had been young, successful, dreamy and passionate about life. Now he just loitered around the house, trying hard not to knock things over and wondering why Death had so cruelly spared him. Wondering when this would finally come to an end and when he would join his loved ones in Heaven. Yes, he believed in Heaven and that he would meet them there.
Until one night the sky opened up in tears. That storm, born in the dark of the ocean, had crept up the land, tearing his roof apart and banging on his pellucid windows. He rejoiced, prayed for the wind to blow harder and hoped for the walls to come crashing down on him. He sat waiting for the final blow, when he would finally walk hand in hand with Death.
‘Who could that be at this time, out there withstanding this storm?‘ he wondered as he ambled towards the door. When he opened them, a young, dishevelled man fell onto the floor. As he closed the doors shut as quickly as his shivery hands could, the man dragged himself across the room, towards the flickering candle by the chair, leaving a trail of mud and blood behind him. The sharp edge of a piece of wood, that had pierced his young heart, shone bright red in the light of the room. He was dying, the old man realized.
As the storm took strength outside, the two men awaited their doom, inside that old house. One lay on the floor, writhing in pain, his eyes trying to fill his body with the light of the dying candle. The other sat beside him, knowing fully well that there was nothing he could do to save the young man. There was no help coming for him. This would be his last night. The old man sat, wondering if he would have to watch another die so young.
“I am a sailor,” a voice croaked from the floor. “And I lost my ship tonight. She has kissed the ocean floor leaving nothing behind, save this part of her lodged in my heart.”
“I have crossed many seas and lead incredible voyages,” he continued, defying his body’s will to depart. “I have chests full of treasures and riches in my home across the ocean. I have met great men and listened to inspiring stories. But I have never loved. And that scares me more than death tonight.”
“Never loved?” the old man asked wiping the blood off his bruises.
“As soon as I became a man I left my folks to conquer the world. I feared their love would anchor me down. And when beautiful women offered themselves to me, I set sail on dangerous expeditions, fearing their love would weaken me. I even feared the love from my kind seamen, for I believed they would one day ask it in return. I have feared love all my life. And now I fear dying without it. A lifetime of courage and bravery, yet not enough to face death.”
The man on the floor waited for the old man to speak, to comfort him with wisdom. He waited in vain. For the old man continued cleaning his wounds in unnerving silence. And after a few more flickers of the candle, the man closed his eyes and waited for the pain to end.
When he opened his eyes, light had filled the room. Outside the window, a sun was shining vehemently through the grey clouds leftover from the stormy night. He gently lifted his head and felt in wonderful surprise, the absence of pain. There was no piece of wood sticking out from his heart, no blood draining out his life, not even a scar across his chest where life had struck him last night. All that remained was a dull ache in his heart. It was a miracle, he was alive!
He looked around and found a piece of paper on the floor where the old man had sat wiping his blood. He read it.
Death has come for us, the both of us. But it shall leave with only me tonight.
I have traded an afterlife with my loved ones for your rebirth. There is nothing wrong in dying young, but a heart that has not loved cannot die in peace.
Do not be afraid. Love will hurt. It will break your heart and wound you more deeply than that log of wood. But it will also fill your heart with awe for the beauty in shipwrecks that you never knew existed. It is the only reason to survive. Love, as much as you can, as many times as your heart calls for it. With passion. With commitment. So that when Death comes back for you, and it will, you can look in its eyes and not be afraid. And that is the way to go.
I lived all these years wondering why fate had to be so cruel. I realize, I was only made to wait so that I could embrace Death with the same love that I had embraced Life with. I am happy to be the spare that saved your life.
I have loved all those who gave me a reason to live, happily. And now I love you for giving me the perfect reason to die.
He looked up, folded the letter, placed it close to his heart, and set out to reclaim his life. As he walked away, he threw one last glance at the doors he had knocked in refuge. The old, hauntingly empty house, filled with love.
The night is quiet again. The voices take their leave and I return to the world of shipwrecks.