70- plus year old katherine Hass riding a camel on the beach in Morocco.
Riding a runaway camel in Morocco— another bucket list item crossed off for retired Key School teacher Katherine Haas. Photo: Katherine Haas

by Katherine Haas

I know my days are numbered. I always knew they were numbered. Looking at the obits daily, I notice the ones listed are close to my age: some older, some younger.  Each day I wake up grateful that I am granted the gift of one more day on this planet.  But death looms large around me. if I’m lucky I have fifteen more years. I turned 64 fifteen years ago and sang the Beatles song happily. It seems like yesterday.

How do I slow down the passage of time? How do I savor each moment more than I do already? What is death like?

My Chinese grandmother told me when we die, we return reincarnated as another being. Would I like the new me? Would I remember who I once was? Would I mate with my late beloved first husband or with my present husband who will follow me in death? I don’t want to return as an ant; they work too hard and don’t have fun. A dancing water bug would be thrilling: gliding on the clear surface, sticking my tongue out at the fishes below. A tick could ride around various animals, get marvelously fat and no one would care! Or maybe an oryx. Would I have a choice?

My own faith tells me I may go to heaven if I’ve behaved. And if I’m in heaven, what about the sickeningly- sweet-goody-two-shoes-fake-smiling folks: will they be there?  Will God send me to Hell just for thinking about not wanting to be in their company? I haven’t been altogether good. What is Hell like? Might some of my mischievous friends be there? I want to know. I need to know.

How could anything be as wonderful as what we are enjoying now? The wind, the scent of spring blossoms, walking hand in hand with our lover, eating lobster tail saturated in clarified butter, singing folk songs with our children accompanied by their guitar and banjo, making love early in the morning! That’s heaven. The afterlife is the unknown and the worry— because it can’t be this good.

Katherine Haas taught at Key School in Annapolis for 42 years. She now spends her time enjoying the arts with her husband, learning Spanish while Arabic teacher is in China, teaching Chinese, working part time at Key as Scientist in residence and engaging in progressive activism.

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