“I’m terrified of dying,” said Jon, before taking another bite of his sandwich. “It scares the stuffing out of me.”

It was ten at night, Jon and I sat on my tailgate, covered in sawdust and dirt. We ate prepackaged gas-station sandwiches, potato chips, and warm beer for supper.

“Me too,” I said.

“When my mama died,” said Jon. “I started thinking about death a lot. It’s impossible not to think about death the older you get.”

And he would’ve known. Jon was a lot older than me. I never knew him to open his mouth to say much. He came from a generation of blue-collar men who wore hardened faces. Who were often seen, seldom heard.

“I wonder,” Jon went on. “How it’ll happen to me. Or worse, what’ll happen to my son, after I’m gone. That’s the part that scares me. Do you ever think about it?”

Of course I do. I think about these things often, just like anyone. Sometimes, I wonder which hymns they’ll play at my funeral. I’d like somebody to sing, “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.” And I swear to haunt my friends for all eternity if they don’t play, “Beulah Land.”

“I look at things,” Jon said. “And I realize I take it all for granted. And then I think, ‘This was it, Jonny boy, this was life, and you missed it. You were too busy paying bills, doing whatever everyone said you SHOULD be doing, instead of all the things that matter.’”

“Like what, Jon? What things matter?”

Jon thought for a moment. “I don’t know. People. Nature. Stars. I mean, look at that moon.” He nodded toward the sky. “It’s so pretty and far away. I never stop and look at it. But it’s right there. See it?”

We both got quiet for a few minutes. I couldn’t hear anything but the sound of crickets coming from the woods behind the gas station.

I thought about how quick a year goes by. About how fast wrinkles form on the corners of our eyes. About friends who’ve died. About those still alive. About my wife. About the moon.

“Well,” Jon said. “We’re really looking at it now, aren’t we?”


And I think that counts for a lot.


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