Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” I agree with Mr. Franklin on the certainty of death. Taxes on the other hand, well if you’re a pirate, dictator, criminal, or an alien you’re probably evading taxes at the moment. That or you’re living in a tax-free state. At least your face is on the $100 USD bill, Mr. Franklin, that’s an okay conciliatory prize for being wrong.
I would like to preface this post by saying that I do not entirely understand death and all that entails. I do not wish to offend anyone. But I’m writing this to try and come to terms with what I understand and try to grasp what I do not. Death is both one of the most intimate experiences one can have and one of the most public one can share. It’s truly the one inevitable fate that all human beings on this Earth share, no matter gender, or race, or religion, or sexual orientation, or socio-economic circumstance. We all die. That’s inevitable. We can try and hold it off but we cannot stop it. We all have a beginning and we all have an end. What happens in between those finite points is what separates us.
This week we learnt of the deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, both lost to cancer, both of who are tremendous artists whose impact on future generations will continue on through their music and movies long after they are gone. I know that their art has already impacted me greatly and will continue to as time moves forward.
Death is a peculiar thing. One moment a person is here, alive, and the next they are gone. Sometimes deaths occur for no particular reason or understanding, these are some of the worst because we do not expect them. The shock deafens us, wounds us, and pierces us so painfully. Sometimes death has been at one’s doorstep for a while, but that doesn’t lessen the amount of grief or loss one feels. It can bring out the best of humanity when it draws us together; our grief and misery coalesce so we can help draw others back up, to support each other when we are in such need. Other times, death brings out the worst in humanity; it brings more grief, more pain, and more bloodshed. Death is inevitable but it doesn’t make it suck less.
I am afraid of death. Not particularly when it comes to my own person but about those I love and care about. I think we all are afraid to a certain degree. It’s why we talk about it. It’s why we’ve written about it. It’s why we research it. It’s why religions try to explain an afterlife to us. Death is both understandable and inexplicable. It’s one reason why there has been such a long obsession, attraction, to the idea of immortality. The idea of living forever, being able to experience life and all that it has to offer, forever, is alluring.
For myself, I don’t wish to live forever, one because the thought of such slightly overwhelming (like seeing the 20+ notification status on my Twitter app) and another because I wouldn’t want to experience finding others, becoming friends with them, loving them, and losing them, over and over again. Immortality and vampirism is not for me.
I’ve read about death, about grief, about loss, and all the other emotions that one feels. I’ve watched countless movies and TV shows containing the same material. But I still don’t entirely understand it. Maybe because death is so intrinsically intertwined with life and living and I don’t entirely understand those either quite yet. Maybe because death brings with it so much baggage that I have yet to experience. Maybe because death is not entirely unknowable and we can only ever understand parts of it. I don’t know. Is it all one big cycle? We are born, we live, we die, and it starts all over again? Is there an afterlife? Does reincarnation exist? Is there really a heaven and hell? Does all of this rambling mess make any sense to anyone but myself? Probably not. I don’t think these answers will come easy or come at all in some cases.
Death happens. I’ve experience intimately twice in my life. The most intimate being the loss of my grandmother a few years ago. It was the first time I faced death head on. Where I experienced all that comes with death, the different traditions, the different cultural aspects of death, the loss. My grandmother’s death was one where death had been knocking for a while, her age and Alzheimer’s being the prominent factors. While it was expected, the actual death was entirely unexpected. It happened quietly and without any warning. Death is weird like that.
Thoughts of birth, of life, of death, have been swirling around my mind for a while. Well more so since late November of last year. The deaths of David Bowie, of Alan Rickman, and of René Angélil, all from cancer and all around the same age have thrown my mind into a different headspace. My dad’s birthday is in a few days being the source of such discord of my mindset. But that’s the way life is and I’ve come to accept it, sort of but not entirely.
I do not understand death in its entirety. I don’t think it ever will. I don’t know if I want to. Sorry for this rambling mess of a post. I’ve just had to get some thoughts off my mind and writing seems to help. Death is inevitable. We will all experience it, in all different manners, but we all will. And I think maybe we should take comfort in that, that the feeling of such loss, of such grief, that we all experience so individually is shared in some sense by others all across this planet. I know it’s cliché to say but do hug the people you love close, I know I am.