Appointment in Samarra

A grim reaper with a wooden handle and a black cloth.

âš½ A merchant in Baghdad sends his servant to the marketplace for provisions. Soon afterwards, the servant came home white and trembling and told him that in the marketplace he was jostled by a woman whom he recognized as Death. and she made a threatening gesture. Borrowing his master’s horse, he fled at great speed to Samarra, a distance of about 75 miles (125 km).  There, he believed, Death would not find him. The servant’s master went to the marketplace and found Death and asked why she made the threatening gesture to his servant. She replied, “That was not a threatening gesture, it was only the stare of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad because I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.† So, the phrase, “Appointment in Samarra†has come to mean that we may be trying to avoid death, but it will find us.

I have traveled thru life these 79 years not trying to avoid death but ignoring it.  I am guilty of doing many foolish things during my younger years that could have brought instant death; driving recklessly, jumping off high places into the water, and mining coal with my dad in a mine whose roof was only 27 inches high.  I’ve had 500 lbs of rock fall from that roof within 10-15 feet of me several times.  Never once was I scared, fearing that I barely escaped the grasp of the old man.  I never gave death a second thought, but little did I know he wasn’t done with me yet.  Yes, we all have an “appointment in Samarraâ€, we just don’t know when that will be.  I read once of a man who placed the following epitaph on his tombstone: “Remember friends as you pass by, where you are now, so once was I.  As I am now, so you must be, prepare yourself to follow me.† 

 I’m inclined to believe Friedrich Nietzsche when he said, “The dying man has probably lost, during the course of life, things more important than what he is about to lose by dying.â€

âš½ Well, we have switched over to Daylight Savings Time (DST) here on the east coast of Virginia, and I have to say that I’m glad to see it.  Darkness has been blanketing our area around 6pm here of late, but now it will stay away until 7pm, giving me more opportunities to do chores you see😊.  As we move closer to mid-June, darkness avoids us until 9pm and the day seems endless.  I have plenty of time to do necessary things and time left over to do some very enjoyable things as well.  One of my most enjoyable activities is to plop down in my favorite chair in front of my workshop after a day of chores and call someone I enjoy talking to, and whom I know will be home at that time of the day.  I will normally be drinking a non-alcoholic beer or smoking a cigar.  The beer and cigar alternate days because I know the beer is less harmful 😊.  It’s surprising how uplifting a good conversation is to one’s spirit.  In a time when entertainment is just a moment away, on a device that can transport you to any place on earth via video, talking to others seems to be a lost pleasure.  Sure, contact is much easier via text & Skype, but to have a casual 20-minute conversation on the phone with someone you care about is incredibly enjoyable.  I try to limit my calls to that amount of time unless the conversation is of a serious nature.  I had two close friends pass away last year (Mary Ann & Patty), but I have many of their phone conversation tucked away in memories.  I always called Mary and began the conversation with, “Mary, this is the fun police and your neighbor called and said you were having too much fun, and it has to stopâ€.  I could feel her smile drifting thru the line and from there our conversation started.  She was suffering from dementia, and my calls always raised her spirit.

To Mary I would like to say, “Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world which I find myself constantly walking around in during the daytime and falling into at night. I miss you like hell…….Edna St. Vincent Millay.  She and Patty were wonderful sister-in laws.

âš½ My wife and I were preparing to attend the wedding of two of our church friends (Dana & Carey) at 11 am on a Saturday. We started getting ready around 9:30am, changing our clothes, combing our hair and trying to look good for the new bride & groom as they said their wedding vows.  I walked down the hall to our bedroom and my wife had two dresses out, debating on which to wear.  I asked her which one she had selected, and she responded that she didn’t know yet.  That amused me, and as I turned to walk away, I thought about how long it took me to make up my mind on what to wear.  Probably less than a minute, and that would apply to any occasion I would be attending.  I believe that is one of the many differences between men and women.  For the most part, we men pay scant attention to what we wear.  When I go into our closet to get a shirt, I normally grab the first one I come to and then quickly find the pants, belt and socks that I feel would come close to matching.  Sometimes, my wife takes me back to that closet and picks out what she believes looks better.  Am I offended when she does that?  No, most of the time I’m amused and am prone to tease her about it.  I started dating her in 1992, and after about six months into our relationship, she headed upstairs to my closet and removed everything I had in there that smelled of polyester.  I kinda liked polyester because it never wrinkled, but to her they needed to go because no one wore it anymore.  Needless to say, I complied and before long everything was replaced with more modern clothing.  I only control what I wear around the house and in the yard.  If I’m going out the driveway, then I’m wearing what she thinks looks good 😊.  You might be inclined to think that she’s bossy, just the opposite, she wants me to keep my “Tom Cruise†look.  If ever an angel came down to earth, it was my loving, caring wife.  I am so lucky to have her in my life.     

âš½ I have made an important decision on how to live the remainder of my life.  I don’t know why I didn’t decide to do it years ago.  It’s such a simple decision and oh so easy to do.  I have decided not to postpone any task that takes less than one minute to do.  I started it today, and I already feel better because I don’t have to worry about forgetting whatever task needed doing.  As I sat down to write this article on my computer, I realized I had left a note in my work pants, so I immediately got up, walked to the garage, and retrieved it.  I can see this having quite an impact on me.  As time goes by, I may change the time limit to two minutes and see how that goes, then maybe three?  I doubt doing three would work because it needs to be a task that can be done quickly, and three minutes is stretching it a little for me. Sometimes I wonder why I care about such trivial things, but I read something a long time ago that went like this, “All things are interesting to a wise manâ€. I think we all strive to be wise, but only a few attain that lofty goal.

âš½ I read the other day that the average American consumes 12 pounds of chocolate a year, thanks to Mexico.  Mexicans have been cultivating cacao plants since 1900 BC, and the Spanish transformed it to the delicious treat we know today.  Later, Hernan Cortes introduced it to Europe, and they are the leading producers of chocolate. 

Somehow, as much as I love chocolate, I doubt that I eat 12 lbs a year, or one pound each month.  Some of you people must be eating way too much of that scrumptious stuff 😊.  I remember that as a young boy of 8-9 years old, my mother took me to the doctor because I had a rash on my right forearm.  He looked at it closely, then leaned back in his chair and stared at me for a few minutes.  “Mrs. Hale, does Tommy eat a lot of chocolate?† Mom responded that I loved it and ate it almost daily.  He politely informed her to stop all my consumption of it and the rash would rapidly depart.  Much to my consternation, my mother followed his instructions, and it went away.  Since then, I have always tried to moderate my consumption of that wonderfully tasty bit of happiness.  I firmly believe the reason it tastes so good is that I know I shouldn’t be eating it.  I read an article a while back that said chocolate had ingredients that helped fight certain types of cancer.  That was the only excuse I needed to get back on the wagon.  About the only thing that keeps me in check now is my wife.  If not for her, I would have a rash all over my body 😊.