“Aussie, what weighs us down?”

“Your age and your weight.”

“I’m referring to possessions, Auss. Say, the house and the yard. Do you think we should sell them and go into a small condo?”

“And what am I going to patrol, a parking lot?”

“And what about our housemates, Lori and Henry?”

“No self-respecting condo will accept an illegal Chihuahua. That’s the only good argument I can see for moving.”

“I love our flower garden and the hummingbird feeders—”

“I need flowers to pee on!”

“But you know, Aussie, everything you own you also have to take care of. You have to plant and water the flowers, you have to clean and fill and refill the feeders, water the brown grass, dust off the picnic table and chairs. Whatever you have, has you. Let me tell you a story.”

“Do you have to?”

“Several weeks ago, I went to the hospital Emergency Room and from there was admitted straightaway into the hospital, so when the aide arrived asking for an inventory of what I’d brought with me (it’s an extra security measure), there wasn’t much to list: the clothes on my back, a phone, a small handbag, and the watch on my wrist.

“Some 36 hours later I get a new roommate in her early 60s. She had hurt herself while cleaning the tub and complained of pain shooting down her leg, though nothing had been broken. Sure enough, an hour after she settles in, the aide comes asking to inventory what she’d brought with her into the hospital. Like me, she had spent all day in the Emergency Room, never suspecting she would be admitted into the hospital for several days. The curtains were drawn so I couldn’t see anything, but I could hear them plain as day.

“’Well,’ says Janice (not her real name) to the aide, ‘I guess I have my rings.’

“’How many, one? Two?’

“’Seven,’ says Janice.

“The aide dutifully writes this down. ‘Any other jewelry?’

“’I have my earrings,’ says Janice.

“’I see you have them on,’ says the aide brightly.

“’Yeah, but I have five more pairs.’

“’I see,’ says the aide, and intones: ‘Five pairs of earrings’ as she writes it all down. ‘Anything else?’

“’Well, I have watches,’ says Janice.

“’The one on your wrist?’

“’I have three watches with me.’

“’Necklaces?’ guesses the aide.

“’Four necklaces and two brooches.’

“The next morning, I hear the nurse inform Janice that she’ll be taken down for a CT-Scan at 10:00. At exactly 10:00 a handsome young man appears, having wheeled a bed down the hallway, and informs Janice that he’s ready to wheel her to the CT-Scan on that bed. ‘Okay,’ says Janice, ‘I’ll get ready.’

“He leaves the room and, behind the curtain, I hear Janice getting up slowly and beginning to rummage around. The hallway is in my line of vision and soon I see the young man checking his watch. He knocks discreetly, asking if Janice is ready. Janice is not ready. He waits another five minutes, checks his watch, and I see him talking to the nurse.

“The nurse comes in. ‘Janice, you’re running late for the CT-Scan.’

“”I’m getting myself ready,’ Janice tells her.

“’Okay,’ says the angelic nurse. ‘Let me know.’

“She leaves, and now I hear the sound of small things spilling onto a hard surface. What’s she doing, I wonder. She doesn’t have to get dressed, she’s going to be wheeled in her hospital gown on the bed, lucky woman (I love being wheeled in a bed down hospital corridors!). She’s not going to the bathroom. And then it hits me: I bet she’s packing up that jewelry to take to the CT-Scan.

“Finally, Janice is ready. I see her walking to the door, dragging behind her a large heavy black rucksack. She lies on the bed, puts the heavy rucksack on her chest, clutching it with both hands, and off they go.

“So you see, Aussie,” I say to Aussie, “they say that we can’t take anything with us when we die. What scares me is: What if we can? Could you imagine taking everything we’ve accumulated into the afterlife, spending our time there watering, polishing, packing, folding, cleaning, laundering, and all the things we do to take care of our possessions? Spending one lifetime like that feels way too much.”

“What about me? Don’t you want me in your after-life?”

“And feed you, brush you, walk you, take you for your shots, and get you to Leeann twice a week for an eternity? No thanks, Auss.”

“Don’t worry, we’re not going to the same place anyway. You’ll be burning up while I chase squirrels in paradise.”

“How do you know I’ll be in hell and you’ll be in heaven, Aussie?”

“Because you’re the one who vows to relieve suffering. Not too much suffering in paradise, unless you count the squirrels.”

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