life and death


I’ve been thinking about death for the last couple of days. Sitting with it, really. Not that there’s anything new in that. I mean, philosophers, poets, major thinkers – people far more adept at using reason, words and art to express themselves — have been thinking death to death since human beings had time and brain capacity to really sit and contemplate anything other than where their next meal would be coming from.

Not to mention everyone else who has ever lost a loved one or who might indeed die one day, too, having had a few thoughts of their own about it. The big “D” is a topic that every person on the planet has had or will think about, and will inevitably experience. So what I am thinking or feeling (melancholy, that’s how I’m feeling) is no more valid or true than what anyone else thinks or feels about it. For some odd reason that makes me feel very alone and sad.

Because there is no answer.  We don’t even know the question, though some religions and belief systems would have you believe they know it all. They really don’t. They could be right, but nobody alive, I mean NOBODY alive really knows.

But to be honest, all that “what happens to us after we die” morass isn’t what has me feeling a surge of gratefulness and love and fear every time I look at my husband and wonderful daughters.  I am not really afraid of dying, more of what dying does to those left behind.

This past weekend, someone I knew slightly, but liked a lot, died after a year of keeping death at bay, with children too young to not have a father and many, many friends who appreciated his amazing creativity, kindness, and free, almost metaphysical spirit. Two of those friends are dear friends of ours, people I don’t see often enough, but who I love and who loved this man like a brother.

I hurt for them. All of them. I am going to the funeral and while I am sad that he is gone, I will probably be a blubbering fool because of the people left behind. And how embarrassing – I hardly knew him, though he was always warm and engaging when we met. But this is what happens to me at funerals – my heart breaks for the living.

And, oh, how I fear the possibility of having to mourn anyone I love dearly too soon. Or of my family having to mourn me before my girls are grown and well on their way. Before I am “old enough” for it to be somewhat okay for them.

And then there’s the other side of death – life. It makes me think about my life. Am I living…enough? Is it enough to sit on the front steps holding my husband’s hand quietly while we watch the sky grow dark? Is it enough to sit in front of the television to watch Serena win yet another US Open, wincing and cheering with my tennis-rabid 13-year-old on a gray Sunday afternoon? Enough that my almost 17-year-old snuggles up to me on the couch and says, “I love you, mommy.”?

Oh, God, yes. Yes, it is.