I work at a church part time. I see them. All of them sad. Sometimes they’re mad too. At God for taking their beloved. At the injustice of the Universe. At the audacity of the sun to keep rising and setting despite their loss. They rage against the dying of their loved one’s light. They’re haunted. By the ‘what ifs’, the words said – or unsaid. The dreams dashed. The plans that will have to be cancelled. Not one amongst them is better off because of the loss of the deceased. No one. If you’re depressed, please get help. Death is not the answer. Where there is life there is hope – where there is death there is only pain. The world is not better off without you. Unless you’re Osama bin Laden, the only death I believe I’ve ever cheered.
Death is vulgar. Vile. Even when invited, it leaves a mess and despair in its wake. Death takes, and takes and takes. Death sucks.
I’ve recently lost two people. They were tangential to my life. But each leaves small holes in my heart. The world is a lesser place because they no longer walk upon it. Both were old enough to have achieved career milestones, raise successful adults and have spoiled grandchildren. Both were gone too soon – each in their late 70’s.
Even when death is summoned by ‘pulling a plug,’ sorrow and pain follows in its wake. Removing someone from life support does not simply enable a person to rest immediately. The autonomic nervous system is programmed to fight. And gasp, and seize and groan against the dying of the light, which it does for minutes or hours, time that will be seared into witnesses’ memories. Survivors promise themselves that such a memory will not eclipse the happier, livelier images. A promise the wee hours of our consciousness may not allow us to keep.
A good death, that’s what we’re told to wish for – for ourselves and others. A passing without physical pain, the time to say what should be heard – and to make amends for what shouldn’t have been uttered. We comfort ourselves with the hope that the deceased is at peace, and try to give them a slice of immortality by continuing to tell their stories.
And for the recently departed, may you rest in peace. I will continue to tell your story.