Monday, December 13, 2010

But Seriously, Folks . . .

I'd like to talk about death.

Over the past couple years I have come in contact with death.  It's made me wonder why it is such a taboo subject.

I am a firm believer that death is a part of life.  It is not a punishment, it is no retribution for something we have done.  It is like being born, or going through puberty, it is another transformation of life.  

Don't get me wrong, death can be very sad.  When my granddad died I was inconsolable for months.  The deep and abiding knowledge that someone I loved so completely was no longer on the same plane as me cut me to the quick, it hurt me in a way I had never been wounded before.   Knowing that I would never get the shy but incredibly loving hugs he would give, or hear that same story he told about WWII over and over again or see the way he would be as quiet as possible at family dinners, not because he didn't want to talk,  but because he wanted to get as much food as he could before my grandmother could yell at him was the closest to despair I had ever felt.  

But that was me, that was the living's response.  Granddad was ready.  He left quietly and full of love.  He was freed from the confusion and weakness that comes with age and is somewhere else, in some other form.  And while I miss him desperately, I would never wish him back to where he was.  His happiness is just as important as mine, and coming to understand that not only can we not prolong death forever, but we also, in the end, don't want to.  Living forever is not an attractive prospect.

I also have to take issue with the way media portrays death, especially if it comes at the end of a long illness.  Often we read that someone "lost their battle against cancer".  They make the deceased come across as if they were a loser, someone who wasn't good enough to win this epic struggle against an all knowing and inherently evil disease.  I hate to break it to you, but it is just a disease.  It has no agenda or dastardly plans.  A person does not lose to cancer or heart disease or AIDS or anything else.  Living with a disease is, once again, like birth, like puberty - it is another state of being and yes, it is not comfortable or dignified or somewhere anyone wants to be, but it is there.

We don't lose when we die.  We may be overcome by disease, but the disease isn't evil, it is just the way it was made.  We aren't being punished by a gathering of cells or a virulent virus.  

We are being asked to move into another state of being.  

I'll write something irreverent and insolent next, promise. 

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