‘But I can’t…’ Niggle said no more, for at that moment another man came in. Very much like the Inspector he was, almost his double: tall, dressed all in black.
‘Come along!’ he said. ‘I am the Driver.’
Niggle stumbled down from the ladder. His fever seemed to have come on again, and his head was swimming; he felt cold all over.
‘Driver? Driver?’ he chattered. ‘Driver of what?’
‘You, and your carriage,’ said the man. ‘The carriage was ordered long ago. It has come at last. It’s waiting. You start today on your journey, you know.’
‘Oh dear!’ said poor Niggle, beginning to weep. ‘And [my tree is] not even finished!’
‘Not finished!’ said the Driver. ‘Well, it’s finished with, as far as you’re concerned, at any rate. Come along!’
Niggle went, quite quietly. The Driver gave him no time to pack, saying that he ought to have done that before, and they would miss the train; so all Niggle could do was grab a little bag in the hall. He found that it contained only a paint box and a small book of his own sketches; neither food nor clothes. They caught the train all right. Niggle was feeling very tired and sleepy; he was hardly aware of what was going on when they bundled him into his compartment. He did not care much: he had forgotten where he was supposed to be going, or what he was going for. The train ran almost at once into a dark tunnel.
~ J.R.R. Tolkien: Leaf by Niggle.
Death might be a scary thought, or at least uncomfortable, or maybe distasteful for you, like it is for Niggle, but think or feel what you may, there it is: We all will go one day, sooner or later, and preparation is required. It is hard to die well if you die unprepared.
In Tolkien’s Silmarillion, he describes death as having been a gift to man, but with time it became ever harder for man to appreciate it. An everlasting What-We-Know-Already appears preferable to the New-We-Know-Nothing-About. Maybe a change of attitude towards life and death is in order. It seems such a pity to reject a gift that offers a way out of the ever-spinning Wheel of Fortune. But it is not to be had without effort, without preparation.
Illustrations by Alan Lee