Sunday, April 22, 2007

On Death

Death is arguably the only Fate we all share, the one thing that can’t ultimately be outrun, outsmarted, or undone.  There are those who are able to buy a little extra time, cheat Fate a little longer, or find a way to simply hold off the inevitable through careful, conscience choices (or dumb luck), but in the end, we’re all going to die.

Perhaps that’s why, just with many other tragedies and heinous atrocities we experience in life,  we romanticize death into such a careful mystery.  Death is fat baby cherubs with delicate, pristine white wings doing cute little things like playing harps and blowing kisses as they come to escort us back to heaven.  Ironic then, that we use the same symbolism for love (think Valentine’s Day).  Some make Death out to be a fun filled destination where we sit quietly in the company of loved ones already passed while merely basking in the great glow that is God.  Death for some is the opportunity for some great adventure, something beyond knowing, something to look forward to rather than fear.

Some claim death to be peaceful, beautiful, tranquil, like napping on the shore of a charming brook while the sun plays lazily overhead.  Some say it is a solemn time of retrospection and contemplation, in which the events of our life play out in an instant and we see the meaning of it all and finally understand.  It is the moment when we are able to relax, to let go, to move on, because suddenly all of our questions and concerns are answered, either by our own power of sudden understanding or the enlightenment of some higher power.

Of course, these are the things we tell ourselves to console ourselves with the fact that this is inevitable.  This is the Fate we all share.  This is the Destiny for us all.  So as it is something that we must all experience, we find ways to try to come to term with it, to explain it, to excuse it, to embrace it. and to somehow make something distinctly painful into something especially beautiful. 

At some points, I find this irritating.  Like those who would tell me to embrace and rejoice in those who would do me harm, for they are teaching me a valuable lesson and it is an opportunity to show them love.  Yeah.  Or I could show them the backside of my hand.  That’d be pretty satisfying, too.  Sometimes, I find this justification and glossy airbrushing of Death to be infuriating, much as I would feel anger to anyone who lied to my face.  At other points, I try to sift through the candy coating and find my own Truth.  I haven’t experienced Death, no, and perhaps when I do, my opinions will change.  I am afraid it will be too late to share my findings and final thoughts by that point, though.  Still, I have seen Death. 

I have watched Death come for unborn babies, for mothers with children, for husbands and wives, for the sick, for the old, and for the seemingly healthy and vivacious.  I have seen Death come suddenly and savagely and I have seen Death come quietly and unobtrusively.  I have seen Death tear families apart , and I have seen Death pull them together, as nothing else could have.  In the end, there are always regrets, no matter how small or large.  It is an ending, whether to a story or a chapter is always debatable, yet still an end.  Though Death is rarely a choice, it is much like a choice in that once it has occurred, it is done and things will never be precisely the same again.  Chances will forever be lost, and roads forever left untraveled.

How much does it matter?  How much does one death (my mother) weigh against 33 (VA Tech)?  200 (wildly estimated deaths in Iraq each day)? 5.4 million (worldwide smoking related deaths each year)?  We imagine that our lives and our deaths will be matters of great importance.  Perhaps not globally, but at least to those close to us.  Perhaps sometimes they are.  Perhaps not so much. 

Maybe lives - and deaths - should matter more.

Posted by Liberty at 11:49 PM

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