Reading at the Event of my Death

Day 18 of the A-to-Z Challenge. R is for Retrocausality, or reverse-causality; the idea that an effect can precede its cause. Though some physicists, including Hawking, speculate that the laws of nature will conspire to prevent time travel, many physical laws, such as particle interactions, can be interpreted to include backward-in-time travel.

To be opened on the event of my death.
On the morning of April 20th, 2095

Dearest Mari, Kenneth, and Dahlia,

I cannot imagine how the three of you must feel at this moment. No doubt you are grief-stricken, as I was on the day that I lost your mother. Soon you will also be very confused, for the sealed envelope that I handed to Mari just minutes before my passing contained this letter. And though the date is 80 years in the past, and the paper is yellowed with age, this letter contains specific details of the day and hour of my death.

Let me first say how grateful I am for my time with the three of you, and especially for the chance to see all the grandchildren one last time this morning. Contrary to what my doctor has been telling you for the past several years, I do not suffer from a degenerative neurological condition. My mind was as sharp and focused on the day of my death as it on the date that I write this letter: April 20th, 2020.

Thirty-eight years before you, Dahlia, went crying to your mother when your first boyfriend broke up with you.

Twenty-three years before you, Kenneth, scored your first point in the Little Lacrosse league.

Nine years before you, Mari, were born.

Dahlia, as the only one who followed in my prestigious footsteps to become a physicist, you will need to explain this to your siblings. For my entire life, I lived with my arrow of time reversed. I will not explain the technical aspects: all of the mathematics are derived in my papers on time-symmetry.

(I omitted the nature of my personal arrow of time from my published works. After all, I was known to my colleagues as Dr. Wynters, the innovative theoretical physicist, not Dr. Wynters the raving crackpot.)

My first memories are of the day of my death; the day that I gave Mari this letter. Since that time, I have aged backwards through time, growing younger and younger.

Those first (last) years of my life were filled with confusion. You had known me as your father for your entire lives: I had just met you as my adult children. As I heard you tell and re-tell your childhood stories (and learned to fake what I did not know), it became more natural for me to be your father.

On the day of your mother’s funeral, I was overjoyed: I knew I would soon meet the woman of whom you all had spoken so lovingly. I still remember the first time I heard my name roll off her tongue. “Edgar,” she whispered as I stroked her delicate silver hair.

Together we lived a good life, growing younger but always constant in our happiness. I watched your careers with great pride, then your college years, then your childhoods. Each stage brought me new understanding of how the three of you came to be the wonderful people that you are.

But time waits for no man, even when it travels in reverse.

From happy retirement, I moved on to become a celebrated physicist… then an obscure PhD student. My heart shattered into subatomic pieces on that day I met your mother, in the quad on the university campus. I suddenly realized that this was the last time I would ever see her. The pain of her unexpected loss stayed with me throughout my graduate and undergraduate studies; it lingers still.

Now at fifteen, I have only my childhood ahead of me. I dare not wait any longer to write this letter: already my memories of old age are fading, just as most people’s childhood memories fade. As my mind passes through puberty, then into childhood, I will undoubtedly start to lose the capacity to write a cogent letter to you all. From there, little time will remain until the inevitable conclusion of my life: birth.

Thank you all for being part of my memorable though temporally unusual life. Though I know you will grieve, please remember: for me, this day is not an end, but a beginning.

Yours Sincerely,

Dr. Ernest Wynters


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