By the end of the Leatherstocking tales Deerslayer/Natty Bumppo/the Trapper is nearing ninety years old. He has lived a long life, and he and everyone else knows it is almost time for him to depart. During this final time, he sits it a roughly made chair among the Indians he has become family with, and when he intermittently speaks they listen with rapt attention. He is not fearful of death because he knows he has lived his life with and for God. He is the one who reassures the others that everything will be all right. He has a few requests like who will get his gun and what is headstone will be, but other than that and goodbyes he is ready for what comes next.
Now it would be easy to criticize his attitude towards death because he had such a long time to live. He obviously should have been ready by this point and so it is no big deal that he is calm in the face of death. Was it because he had such a long time to enjoy life that he was not apprehensive of the prospect of death? There are old people who cannot cope with the inevitability of death, and young people who face the same situation with so much grace, poise, and humility. So the trapper’s age may be part of the equation, but the other part is how he lived his life. He did not look back and have tons of regrets that he was spouting off as he neared death. He knew who he had lived for, and seemed to do his best to honor God. He knew that God had watched his life, both the things that he had done right and would be rewarded for, and the things that would be corrected for in mercy when he was face to face with his creator. He knew that because God had been with him throughout his life he was also with him in that period and moment. Maybe being ready and accepting the reality of death has some correlation to age, but more than that – it is where your trust is placed and what or who you lived your life for. If you live for yourself, or even for another person and your happiness and their happiness is all you chase then you are probably going to fight against the inevitability of death. If you chase the things of the world your soul is going to become more attached to such things and leaving will be that much harder. If you live your life fully, fully for the one who gives you breathe, and live with the perspective that this world is only temporary, you may experience some sadness, but ultimately you will be able to rejoice in death because really it means being with the one who made you and knows you face to face. This might all sound crazy, but the bottom line is that it does matter how you live your life. In the moment it may seem like your decisions do not really matter, but years down the road you will either be filled with regret and pain from those choices, or joy because of how you lived selflessly, humbly, and with God.
The trapper lived a life like that. One where his choices allowed him to be close with others in community, and be close with his God. Living for God did not mean that he did not want to be remembered, but that was not his sole focus. He only asked for a simple stone at his grave and was even hesitant about asking for that much. n regards to what would actually be on the stone he said, “Put no boastful words on the same, but just the name, the age, and the time of the death, with something from the holy book; no more no more. My name will then not be altogether lost on ‘arth; I need no more.” Wanting to be remembered is not a bad thing, it is a natural human desire. I think that it means one has lived one’s life well if there are people that he or she connected with enough that he or she does not want to be forgotten by them. So this is where the trapper’s story ends. He passes, and is buried with his simple grave stone. It marks the place where the “just whiteman sleeps.” The only addition to the stone is the phrase “May no wanton hand ever disturb his remains!” Not to be morbid, but have you ever thought about what you would want your grave stone to read? Is there someone that respects and loves you so much that he or she would take the time to carve something into your grave stone to make sure no one disturbed your grave? How can we live in such a way now that when it is time to stop living we will be able to look back and have peace knowing we accomplished our purpose, loved well, and did everything we needed to?