For various reasons which I am not allowed to fully disclose - perhaps it is merely a symptom of middle age and circumstance - my conversation has of late been dominated by end of life issues. Death is such a taboo subject, so painful, so frightening to contemplate, that it must be skirted around, an elephant in a tutu, dancing on the coffee table.
There are no bad intentions surrounding the topic - but what words can be used? none. There is nothing that can be said which magically grants solace. What is right one day is so wrong the next. What feels soft in your own heart might stab. The fear of adding more pain prevents me, us, you, people, from saying anything at all. In our silence, do we safeguard or isolate?
When it comes to emotions, I cherish details. I do not shrink away from the pain or joy of empathy. I don't just want to understand, I want to *feel* what you feel, *learn* what you learn, *know* what you know. This is the blessing of language and communication. It is why art exists. I get frustrated by private people, who hide the experience of their hearts. I know that to them it may be self protection, but to me it feels like deprivation. Hmmm...the same word root in privacy and deprivation...
My own attitude towards death may seem nonchalant, but it is deeply felt. Perhaps it stems from being a true atheist, from knowing, believing that death will be exactly like the time before birth. Nothingness doesn't scare me. I think death is far scarier for those that believe in an afterlife of some sort - it raises so many questions of doubt and accountability. I have no such worries.
It seems to me that the most common concern about death is being forgotten. All those moments will be lost in time...(Bonus points for the reference and/or the completion of the quote). It is estimated that 99 Billion people have died (on Earth). Of those, there are only a handful of names that survive history. Who knows what they *really* felt or thought or cared about. Will the enduring records of your own life accurately reflect who you are right now - or who you were yesterday - or who you will be tomorrow? Does it really matter that the rest of the world knows what you were thinking - and how will they know if you don't share freely?
But wait - that sounds depressing - how can I explain adequately that does not depress me in the least bit?! I look at life from a geologic time scale. In that scope, everything is so insignificant. The only thing to do is cherish every moment - EVERY moment - even the ones spent in line at the DMV, or yawning on Facebook, or fighting with your partner, or hating your job. That is all you have, and those are the moments that vanish. Why not cherish them?
And also, we humans underestimate the power of progressive knowledge. The Darwinistic Dogma of evolution does not account for how much of our personal knowledge and experience gets transferred to others. The collective human experience is recorded into our genes in ways we do not yet fully comprehend. In that context, we all contribute to future generations - even those of us without direct genetic passage.
Oh but what a world is this where the internet allows you to witness your own memorial in real time..Is it wonderful or horrible? I am not sure, and the people who could answer this for me, probably won't...or can't...
My husband often tells me that he would probably kill himself if I died. How can I express to him how much that pisses me off? How dare you evade that fundamental human experience! If he dies first, I will feel every horrible moment of his absence. I will walk around wearing his clothes, cry like a baby for years and bore the crap out of anyone who has the patience and fortitude to listen to my endless stories of our good times and bad times.
And if it is me - I want my own terms!! I want to be with my pets, somewhere lovely and comfortable. I want celebrations and joy and forth-right conversations, not tip-toes and euphemisms and forlorn looks. I want to know how much I am loved. Don't save your thoughts for a card..tell me...and if you need to, go ahead and cry. Cry, cry, cry. Just because death is natural and inevitable, doesn't mean it isn't sad. And sad isn't bad, or wrong, or forbidden. It is just as much a part of life as joy, and you have to take it too.
Perhaps I am lucky, in that I have lived a life with few regrets, and maybe that is why I face the prospect of death with relative peace of mind. Of course, I reserve the right to become a complete hypocrite when faced with the inevitable myself - yet another of those unique and wonderful human conditions!