Mr. Mullins

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Mr. Mullins died a few days ago. He was a 95-year-old man who lived about six houses up the street.

We received the news in an odd way. One of our neighbors knocked on the door to tell us:

A. Mr. Mullins was dead.

B. Mr. Mullins’ house is available, if we’re interested.

The woman who told us this is wonderful, and meant nothing ill in her words. She knows we’ve been talking a bit about moving, and that the Mullins family would likely want to part with the house swiftly. That said, I felt dirty. A human being who had lived for nearly 10 decades was dead … and I was supposed to think about potential living room fixtures?

Mr. Mullins was a sad case. His wife had died about a decade back, and he lived alone with his dog, Shep. He drove this big ol’ Buick, but eventually his kids detached some wiring so he couldn’t go anywhere. He was often confused, and on more than one occasion I saw him walking to church on a 90-plus degree day, dressed up in a suit jacket and slacks … at 3 in the afternoon. Other neighbors would spot him wandering aimlessly, or sitting in the freezing cold. Mr. Mullins still had some senses—we had a couple of lengthy discussions about his time at Notre Dame; about his wife and kids; his dog. He was a nice man at the end of his years.

The Wife and the woman who told us about his house both expressed some relief at his passing (“That’s no way to live”) and while I understand, I don’t really agree. Let’s say, for five minutes per day, Mr. Mullins experienced pure bliss while pooping, or watching football, or petting his dog, or even sleeping. Well, that bliss is gone—forever. He will never breathe, eat, sleep, think again. Ever. So while it’s certainly good there’s no more pain, I often think I’d rather live with severe pain than with nothing at all.

PS: This morning I took Norma for a walk. I’ve lived here for seven years, but I’ve never been in Mr. Mullins’ yard. So I went through a rickety wood gate and into the back. There was a rusty yellow bowl. I picked it up, brought it home and placed it by a tree. I wanted something simple to remember Mr. Mullins by, so that as the years past and the memory fades, I’ll look at the can and think of him. She says it’s stealing. I can live with that.

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