Kage Baker did not approve of naps. No matter how tired she was, she never went for a lie-down in the day unless she was ill. Even then, it had to be some illness with a bit of heft – a bad flu, or a real head-cracker of a migraine. You know, something that left her blind with pain or puking uncontrollably.
She usually did sleep at night, which may have contributed to her refusal to nap; in fact, as I have said, she could hardly help it. Under normal circumstances, she could barely stay awake past midnight for a party or other festive event, let alone because of insomnia: she almost never “just couldn’t sleep”. It was like Kage ran on a solar charger, and automatically went down when the sunlight faded. And when she did suffer the occasional white night – which everyone does, from time to time – it really did for her. She looked and felt awful. She was utterly sandbagged by fatigue, and would stagger around the next day as if she’d been slipped a Mickey Finn, rather than staying up until dawn desperately watching the entire LOTR trilogy.
But even then, she wouldn’t nap. She’d claim she was tired, not sleepy; that she just couldn’t relax; that if she slept now, she’d never get to sleep at night. And I must assume she believed all these things, even though I watched her nod off in her chair a million times, stubbornly refusing to admit she needed to lie down – when a 45-minute nap would have restored her. All I could ever conclude was that, on some level, she thought napping was weak. Sissy. Probably immoral.
Even in her last, mortal illness, I can’t truthfully say she ‘napped’. She was in bed a lot; finally, confined to bed – but she stayed awake in the day as much as she could. She refused to sleep. Only exhaustion would carry her off in the daylit hours, and it was a bone-deep exhaustion indeed – fighting cancer takes a lot of strength; which, increasingly, Kage did not have. But naps, apparently, were still for babies. She’d fight grimly to keep her eyes open, and only succumb to real rest once it was night – and then, no matter what procedures had to be carried out at night, she slept for the 8 hours she had always preferred.
I changed bandages, administered pills, and gave her entire regimens of IV drugs at night – and she slept through them. I think it was by sheer will power. Kage had the strongest will in the world, and she made the world behave as she thought it ought to. She tried, anyway. She succeeded more than most people ever do.
Death is like a sleep, or so a lot of poets claim. They were all living poets when they said it, though, and none has issued citations after their own deaths – so I think we can safely assume they were all talking through their hats and personal hopes. Death could be like an awful lot of things – who would not prefer it to be like a sleep, rather than, say, a hangover? Or a bout of dysentery? Or an afternoon stuck in traffic on the 405- you know, on that stretch by Mountain Gate, in the Sepulveda Pass, where the air always smells of garbage from the landfill?
A sleep is pretty good, really, considering what else could happen. Personally, I think there is more to it than mere sleep. But no one really knows. It’s the universal uncertainty. I won’t believe any one else’s account of it, because it’s probably not true; and if it is, it probably is only true for them. I won’t know for sure until it is my turn.
I, however, do honestly believe in a life in a world to come. I can’t get much more specific than that – I don’t have the kind of faith that reassures me as to what life or world is waiting. All I have are the details I know I would prefer, ranging from the profound to the utterly banal – there had better be chocolate in the next world, for instance, or you can cancel my subscription. The one thing of which I remain convinced, however, is that there IS a continuation. We don’t go out like candles, or fall silent like finished songs. The soul is immortal and goes on.
Why do I believe this? Because Kage went. If it was only sleep – if there was nothing waiting – she wouldn’t have gone at all.
I do believe that.