Death and the Hermit

Then there’s the story of the hermit who lived
for fifty years by a stream in the mountains.
When Death came for him, he was not afraid,
but asked if he could have just one more day.
Death had been partying recently on wars, famines,
diseases, and various disasters and calamities, so
generously agreed to grant the hermit his request.
The hermit used this opportunity to sit on his rock
by the stream, just as he had done every day before.
When Death returned and found the hermit still sitting
on the same rock, he asked him why he bothered to ask
for more time, since he hadn’t used his last day on earth
to do anything special other than sitting by the stream.
The hermit smiled and offered Death a seat on his rock,
and together they sat for a day and a night, and then
another day, and then another night, and even more.
After some time had passed — maybe another day,
maybe fifty years — Death roused himself at last,
turned to the hermit, cleared his throat, and said:
“This is pleasant indeed, but I must get back to work!”
The hermit smiled, nodded, and said: “Go right ahead!”
Death wandered off, relaxed and a bit absent-minded,
until he found that, while he had been sitting on a rock,
his list of customers had grown, grown, and grown again.
He was so busy that it took him fifty years to catch up,
until he finally came back for the hermit once more.
“That was a pretty sly trick you pulled!” said Death.
The hermit just smiled and nodded, because to him,
by now, one day was fifty years, and fifty years one day.

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