Everybody dies in the end.
When they write books, they like to say, “happily ever after”, yeah? And maybe that’s true. Maybe they were all happy forever and ever after the last page turned, but we all die someday. It’s just that “happily ever after, and then they all died”, doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
That’s the difference between life and stories. In a story, you can skip over all the bits that don’t quite sit with the rest of it. You never see a man take a shit in the storybooks. In real life we don’t get to skip over the uncomfortable parts. We’re deep in the shit and there’s no narrator to exposit us away to the next chapter. We have to find that ourselves.
Or, we can die.
Death is always an option. It’s always a possibility. Every day could be the day we die. As I write this sentence, a blood vessel in my heart could burst, and I could collapse on the cold floor and die. You could die as you read this. I hope you don’t, if we’re being honest… I rather like you (I know, I’m such a softy).
People react to death very differently, though, and people react differently to different kinds of death.
For example, if you find a dead body, and you’re all alone there with it, there are a few ways to react. You can be disgusted. You can cover your nose, look away, and call somebody to take care of it. Or, you can be fascinated. You can step closer, maybe give it a poke with a stick. Some people would take that a bit farther, eh? But we won’t talk about them. You might think this blog is a sacrilegious atrocity, but even I draw the line at necrophilia.
Cannibalism, on the other hand… Well, that’s just common sense. In various cultures throughout history, people believed that human flesh, when consumed, could bestow power upon he who consumed it. By the act of devouring their flesh, you take their energy into yourself. If you ask me that’s a load of malarkey, but the raw emotion of the idea resonates with me. That’s why it makes such good television. We all understand the urge, on some level, way deep down.
Most people try not to think about it. Death. It’s always there, always just a moment away. Just one breath, one heartbeat standing between you and oblivion. You see headlights, hear a horn blaring in your ear, and boom. You’re done. And that’s if we’re lucky.
If we’re unlucky… Well, death can be a miserable bitch of a companion. Cancer in particular likes to take things slow. Your body turns against you and slowly devours you from the inside out. By the end, your mind is gone and you’ve become a husk of what you once were, a bestial corpse, not yet dead but not fully alive. And your family loves you all the same. At least, one hopes they do…
That’s a hard thing, when someone you love has one foot in the grave. Some people die with grace, with peace, and they’re a joy to all who encounter them. But some people die pissed. By the end, even their loved ones feel a bit of relief when they’re finally gone. We can’t all die as saints and martyrs. Some of us die as vicious little cretins driven mad by the misery of a slow and painful execution by disease.
Some people fear death. Some people can’t even think about death without feeling a crawling, gnawing sense of horror at the mere idea of it. We can’t conceive of this concept of “death”. All we know is this sensation of life. We look around, we feel our skin, our flesh, we breathe the air, and we know what it means to be “alive”. This notion of non-existence terrifies us, because there is absolutely nothing to which we can relate it.
We imagine submerging into an icy pool, devoid of light or sound, as our body slowly numbs. All sensation ceases. This is what some of us imagine death to be. A void, a nothingness, an abyss. It’s not that.
Death is a birth, of sorts. We are born from nothing, and when we die we are borne into that nothing once again. One day, we’ll emerge from nothing to do it all again. Or, perhaps not.
Not that I believe in “nothingness”. I’m lucky enough to believe in something that comes after. Something beautiful. Not heaven, not a place full of clouds and angels and hymns and shit like that. Just, a field of consciousness from which we all emerged. One day we’ll return there, and we’ll remember all the times we’ve been born and died again, and we’ll wonder why we were ever so afraid of death in the first place.
Or maybe not. Maybe death is a sad, cold, dark and lonely place. Maybe we’re wormfood.
Either way, fear isn’t the correct response. Yes, death is a scary concept, but it doesn’t have to be. Death is a reminder that everything we do has a price. The promise of death is the promise of a life lived with some semblance of purpose. If we all lived forever, we would never have an excuse to get anything done. Death gives us a reason to get out of bed in the morning, just as it urges us to sleep in on those sleepy winter afternoons when we wish the would would stand still. It’s always there, in the back of our minds.
Sometimes we wish for it. Sometimes this whole “life” business just isn’t worth bothering with. That’s what it can feel like, anyway. Sometimes that’s correct, when the suffering is too great. Most of us, though, are lucky enough not to suffer that way. We pray that when it’s our turn, death will be swift, like sending a sweet little puppy off to the farm. If only life were as merciful as that.
There’s a beauty, in death, if you care to see it. Nothing else in this world is eternal, truly… People, civilization, the world, the universe… Nothing is eternal, except for that sweet kiss of death from which there is no return. Once we’re gone, it’s goodbye forever. It’s a final poetic gesture with which we leave this wonderful world behind.
Just think about death, if you can. Death never has to be as bad as they make it out to be in the movies. When it’s your time to go, do it with a little grace.
Truthfully, love is all that matters in the world. Compared to love, death isn’t such a big thing. We all must look death in the eye, one day. When it’s your turn, accept death’s bittersweet embrace with love, and go gently into the dark.