Getting what we want out of life
Robert, did you get what you wanted?
That was the personalized query greeting me as I opened my first email of the morning. Taking the bait and reading on, I immediately knew that my muddling through the wilderness, questing for contentment and meaning and wisdom and truth, was not what the senders had in mind. They did argue, however, for a delicious, irresistible, perishable something or other that I could not live without.
If you die tonight, did you get what you wanted from life?
Raymond Carver, beloved poet and short story writer, struggled with addictions to alcohol and tobacco and a conflictual marriage while writing immortal words. A decade before dying of lung cancer at age 50, he found sobriety. He said, “Had it not been for Alcoholics Anonymous, I would have been dead at 40.” Toward the end, after 10 years of sobriety, happily married, he told Publishers Weekly, “I’m pleased and happy with the way things have turned out.” He added that he also was surprised.
His final resting place is high above the Pacific Ocean in Port Angeles, Wash. Emblazoned on a black granite tombstone are words from his “Late Fragment.” And did you get what / you wanted from this life, even so? / I did. / And what did you want? / To call myself beloved, to feel myself / beloved on the earth.
There’s a small metal box at the base of the monument. In it, Raymond Carver’s devoted widow, poet and newlywed Tess Gallagher Carver, whose final resting place will be beside him, placed a notebook and a pen in a Ziploc bag for visitors to record their gratitude for Ray’s words outliving him.
Isn’t that our ultimate earthly want: “To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.”