That Five Letter Word...


At times, even recent times, I have been petrified by this five-letter word. It carries with it something that we cannot understand. There are things about death that we all can readily comprehend. The fact that we will all experience this five-letter noun at some point in our lives becomes clear to us shortly after we are confronted with its varying emotional, psychological, and physical effects.

There are a variety of views as to what death is
and what happens to those who have experienced it. An afterlife, another life (perhaps in a different form), nothing at all and everything in between are some of the more widely held perspectives as to the great mystery that is death.

Today I can punch this blog entry out and say with a degree of confidence that I am not afraid of death. Who knows what tomorrow may bring. Since a young age I have thought about life and death. No, I was not a morbid nor morose young child, middle child, or older child. I was, as I am now, extremely in tune with the brevity of our stay in these bodily houses.

I think the thing that is probably the hardest for me is thinking of how I will cope with the death of those closest to me. I can deal with my own death, its other peoples that cripple me. My mom, dad, sister, brother and a large number of close friends are some of those whom I am not sure I can live without. If I had to create a list of what I valued most in life relationships would be my first entry. People and what they have to say is extremely important to me. The small, minuet details of their day in and day out lives are my manna, my bread of life. Take away my bread and I'm afraid I might starve.

In all of this I think of how little we (Americans) actually talk about death in a constructive and critical way. I have found that we tend to ignore it, trivialize it, or create a fantastic story to help explain it away. What we don’t do is actually live with death.

If you saw Road To Perdition you might remember a scene in which someone has died and in the wake of his death there is this huge celebration filled with drinking, dancing, singing, and remembering. I understand that this scene can be interpreted in a variety of ways (one being that the whole wake was nothing but an excuse for family and friends to not deal with the death of a loved one but instead get drunk in an attempt to drown out the rawness of the pain they were truly feeling), I am going to choose to use this scene as an example of how a life (and the death that proceeds it) can be celebrated, mourned, and at the same time keep the awe (and mystery) of death alive.

Can we love the life we live; fully, deeply, passionately, while at the same time keeping the mystery of death in tact? I believe we can and I intend to live a life that points me in that direction. In the direction of mystery, of awe, of the grey that hides itself quietly between the glaring black and white most of the waking world chooses to live within.


Blogger Tim T. said...

I agree with what you're saying. I have an incredibly hard time with death, other than my own, especially after my Dad died.

Alison's grandfather recently passed but before he took off he was in hospice. Alison kept going on about how wonderful the idea of hospice was and I was on board for a while until I got to visit him there. I stayed for a little bit but then I had to leave. I think it's the images that really disturb me. A few days later, Alison was there the moment he took his last breath. His family was chatting about material things and themselves right at the last moment. The idea of respect was lost. Alison was the only one, who just watched him go. The others had absolutely no clue on how to say good-bye or deal with the issue. It's a messed-up family anyway.

On my birthday in 2001, one of my ex girlfriends was killed in a car accident. I went to the funeral and they should not have attempted to have an open casket... it was really bad. I started to ponder how vain we are that we try and keep a body out for so many days and then try to make it look "natural". It's the process of detachment we have accustomed ourselves to. In other countries, especially the Middle East, it's custom to have the body prepared at home and in the ground by the next day.

Finally, when I was taking Spanish, we learned about Día de Muertos, Day of the Dead. On November 1-2 most latin countries celebrate and remember, joyfully, those that have deceased. What a polar opposite to our average funeral or ideology of the dead. Growing up, I was only told about one thing, are they going to heaven or not. I regret to say that it seems to be a weak way of resolving the death of a close one.

I have to blame individualism for a moment. maybe the idea that we need to own things makes us believe that losing someone close is a bad thing. We can only think of them roughly as our possession and we now mourn the loss of something we used to find useful. I know this is an ass-hole thing to say to someone mourning but in respect to my father dying, all i can think about is his negative affect on my life. How it affected me when he died, how his leaving our family messed me up and everyone else. What a selfish bastard I am. He also had an amazing impact on others and he taught me how to have a caring heart. I've been stuck on the me. He has no identity unless I give him one.

So yeah, I guess I miss talking you man. We want to come see you maybe in the middle of next month on a weekend. What do ya say?

11:39 AM  

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