You imagine that the nearness of death leads to thinking like this:
“I’m gonna die! I’d better buy a Porsche this year!”
That may be how immature people think when they are young. What people really think at the end is completely different. “A Yellow Rose” — a story by Borges, better reveals what end of life thinking is like:
A Yellow Rose
Neither that afternoon nor the next did the illustrious Giambattista Marino die, he whom the unanimous mouths of Fame — to use an image dear to him — proclaimed as the new Homer and the new Dante. But still, the noiseless fact that took place then was in reality the last event of his life. Laden with years and with glory, he lay dying in a huge Spanish bed with carved bedposts. It is not hard to imagine a serene balcony a few steps away, facing the west, and, below, marble and laurels and a garden whose various levels are duplicated in a rectangle of water. A woman has placed in a goblet a yellow rose. The man murmurs the inevitable lines that now, to tell the truth, bore even him a little:
Purple of the garden, pomp of the meadow,
Gem of the spring, April’s eye . . .
Then the revelation occurred: Marino saw the rose as Adam might have seen it in Paradise, and he thought that the rose was to be found in its own eternity and not in his words; and that we may mention or allude to a thing, but not express it; and that the tall, proud volumes casting a golden shadow in a corner were not — as his vanity had dreamed — a mirror of the world, but rather one thing more added to the world.
Marino achieved this illumination on the eve of his death, and Homer and Dante may have achieved it as well.
EdNote: This particular translation is by Mildred Boyer and currently resides in a short volume Borges’ writings titled Dreamtigers.
IN OTHER WORDS, the person who thought Porsches were so important will one day understand how meaningless it all was. As the writer of Ecclesiastes once observed, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.”
Likewise, one day you also will look back on all this daily lobbying against what you label Fascism and America’s free fall, and will wonder why you got so exercised about it all.
Be well, umair, whoever you are.