My Words


You cannot conquer time. W.H. Auden told me that one day in his poem read in an English class, and I whole heartedly agreed. It was the truest statement I think I had ever heard, put into a poem that has lived on, through all this time, as one of my favorites. I’d always believed that time and death were connected since I was a kid, and I knew we were all running out of it from the moment we were born. I also knew there was nothing to be done about it. Time and his friend Death come for us all, and no amount of bargaining will deter them. I wrote about it when I was eleven in a cheesy little poem that I can still recite today.

Death is scary and mysterious
Strikes at any time
For different reasons, and in different seasons
It worries everyone’s mind
But death will soon come to everyone
And everyone will die
Because death is just another part of life

Yup, that’s the poem. Even eleven-year-old me was angsty and death obsessed, and a lot of that angst was related to the amount of time I thought I had. The amount of time others I loved had. And the crushing understanding that no matter what, just like the House in Vegas, Time in the end always wins.

My great grandma had that poem in my little kid handwriting stuck to her bedroom wall with a push pin. I knew I was going to lose her when I hung it there with the folded origami shirt I’d pinned next to it. I knew I wasn’t going to be ready, but she let me know she was, and I held onto that. In her raspy, ex-smoker’s voice she told me she was dying. I denied it. She told me she was tired, and she was ready, and she was irritated they wouldn’t let her put sugar on her strawberries. I understood that last bit. She always made the best strawberries and I’d go back in time for her to mke me one more sticky-sweet bowl of the sweet berries from her garden. But Time doesn’t play that game.

When Time and his friend Death came for my great grandma, my mother read my Death poem at her funeral. I was thirteen by then, and it was the first funeral I’d ever attended. I remember that moment and the service that seemed to go on forever. A man I didn’t know talking and talking about a woman he didn’t really know either. He mumbled on, trying to bring some sort of meaning to a death that was, of course, as inevitable as they all are.

From the moment we first breathe, Time starts our countdown, and most of us live blissfully unaware of when that clock will ring for us. No matter what we do with the time we have – whether we use it wisely or waste it. Whether we live gracefully or imbibe with the gluttons – we cannot stop it. We might not hear them but the clocks through the cities whir and chime and Death walks towards all of us, holding hands with her friend Time.


  • Barbara Dumas

    I seem to be doing a lot of crying lately and especially when I read your beautiful words. I am so happy that you have memories of Grape because she is the person that meant the most to me until I had you and your brother. Thank you for sharing your heart💜💛

    • Alie Dumas-Heidt

      It was funny to clarify in class that she was my great grandmother and not my grandmother. I took it for granted as a kid that everyone knew their grandparents and great grandparents, but as I got older I realized how lucky I was to have her in my life, even if it wasn’t for long enough. She told me a lot of things that day she told me she was dying. Things she wanted to happen that me at 13 knew I’d have no control in. That’s why I stole the Troll on the day of her funeral. Grape was one of those people that loved very clearly.

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