Once a tortoise realized its time was drawing nigh. The tortoise wasn’t particularly alarmed by this realization. It did not suddenly turn morose or self-pitying. Nor was it bothered by those who raced past with an “Outta the way, old-timer!” tossed back over their shoulder. Nor by the likelihood that it cut a figure of ridicule in the eyes of many, what with its sagging flesh and its halting step. It didn’t look upon younger generations with defensive animosity or resentment that its own years were coming to a close while theirs would continue. Its life had been full enough for one tortoise. Looking back on the years gone by, it took satisfaction not in specific events or experiences but in their sum total. What mattered more, now this life was approaching an end, was that it had possessed a beginning and a middle as well. A hackneyed assertion perhaps, the tortoise admitted, but there it was. Grander pronouncements about existence could be left to those who thought them worth voicing. The tortoise was content to know that in its own life, there had been room for challenges and triumphs enough. These might not appear all that impressive to some, no harrowing defeats endured or illustrious victories gained, but they would do for a life. They had their own weight and meaning. And despite its having been rather solitary by nature, the tortoise was pleased to have shared the planet for a time with so many other beings. It didn’t get out and about much now, but that hadn’t always been the case. In its day, the tortoise was to be seen at many a public celebration and cultural event. It seldom missed a museum exhibition or a concert or a boisterous parade or some other public event. And while a night at the theater could carry it to the limits of delight, a walk down a broad boulevard, surrounded by perfect strangers in an endless flow, could be just as inspiring. Though it personally had always moved with a plodding gait, the tortoise rejoiced that so many others seemed to dance through life with such grace and élan. No question, it was good to have been present for it all. Oh, there were countless things the tortoise now realized it would never have a chance to do. Adventures it would not pursue and longings it would fail to satisfy. But perhaps this was as it should be. To think that all you desired of experience would be granted you in full—what a monotonous existence that would amount to. The tortoise also knew that when its time was finally up, life’s grand pageant would roll on as if it had never existed. It would be forgotten, sooner rather than later, and leave behind only an empty shell gathering dust. So be it.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans