This year of our Lord, 2014 is already weighing heavy on my family. We had a death in the family last week and had barely finished the funeral on Monday when we had a second death and there is a third imminent as a cousin struggles with the final phase of stage four cancer.
Nothing focuses us as completely as death.
Some fear it, others who are suffering in great physical or emotional pain yearn for it but regardless, most of us are aware of death in a way we are not aware of anything else in this life.
Death is the final chapter; the end of life as we know it and every death we experience is a reminder of our own mortality.
I have reached that age in life where the people I have known and loved are dying. Some I have known since I was a child, others I have come to know later in my life. Some are family, some are friends or colleagues.
In the end, like birth, death comes for us all.
For many religions, death is considered a doorway to the afterlife as if there is only this life and one more. They may be right – I don’t know. In fact, none of us really know what is on the other side of the door. It’s there like a dim shadow that we try to ignore throughout our lives but the truth is that we start to die the moment we are born.
Every day; every breath moves us closer to the last.
For me personally, death holds no fears. I have almost died a half dozen times from either illness or accident and I have come to realize that my only real fear is that those I love will be well after I’m gone.
I have attended so many funerals in my life but the two that were the most difficult were for children. One died from SIDS and the other was struck by a car.
Death is never harsher than when it comes too soon. No parent should ever have to outlive their child and I don’t know how parents who have lost a child make it through. I don’t know that I would have the strength.
Since the day she was born, I have worried about my daughter. When she was a baby, I would check on her constantly as she lay sleeping in her crib. I was terrified of the shadow of SIDS claiming her. Later, when she was almost four, my wife told me to stop because she was in no danger of SIDS and I was scaring our daughter.
The fear of death, it seems, can make even the most rational of us somewhat irrational.
My daughter will turn forty this year and I still worry about her as she goes about successfully living her life and raising her children and I have added my grandchildren to the worry list.
Death has a considerable power over even those of us who do not fear it for ourselves.
No matter what you believe about this life or a possible life beyond the one we share now; no matter if you are a person of faith, agnostic or atheist; death is a natural part of life. Everything that lives – dies and it seems to me that we probably should be less afraid and more accepting of it.
But we are not.
There is a broad and diversified industry dedicated to helping us postpone our deaths. There are health regimes, cosmetic surgery, supplements all intended to try to keep us from aging or at least give the appearance that we are not growing old. We are only fooling ourselves – death could care less what we look like or how robust we feel.
For the more extreme there is cryogenics; the freezing of the body which is to be stored so that at some future date it can be regenerated by new breakthroughs in medical science.
Some of us are prepared to believe almost anything in an attempt assuage our fear of the inevitable.
I believe it is how we perceive death that will determine how we meet it. Of all the things I have read, heard or thought about death, I believe that Carlos Castaneda may have stated it most accurately.
“Death is the greatest trip of all – that’s why they save it for last.”
The worst part of death for me, beyond the mourning for someone I love, is the funeral. They tend to be dreary, hushed affairs for the most part choreographed with slick precision by professionals from the funeral industry who go through this several times every week. It somehow makes it all seem so plastic and artificial for me. Whatever is intended, funerals tend to be more about mourning a death than about celebrating a life and what that life brought to each of us. I would like my funeral to break away from that.
I told Maggie after the funeral on Monday that I didn’t want traditional funeral dirges or sad music at my funeral. I wanted her to have Latin guitar music played and at the end, when it was over, I thought that Celebrate by Kool and the Gang would be perfect.
And I still do.
© 2013 Maggie’s Bear
all rights reserved The written content of this article is the sole property of Maggie’s Bear but a link to it may be shared by those who think it may be of interest to others
Let’s connect on Twitter: @maggsbear or send a friend request on Facebook to: Maggie’s Bear