There are three ways to look at death and all of them are wrong.
1. Death as an inevitable tragedy.
We wonder at it, avoid thinking about it, honor it in predictable ways, and fetishize it all at once.
This is the death of black veils and funeral rites. It’s the death of people passing.
This death is written about in obituaries with the lines of people preceded by or survived by into death.
The death we watch in the movies but want to avoid dealing with in the news.
It’s the death happening to someone else.
2. Death as a gift.
It’s a reminder to “LIVE LIFE!” and go after your dreams. To invite you into mindfulness and gratitude.
This is the death of bucket lists and fighting cancer.
This is the death of final words and last times.
It’s the death that people wonder at, that inspires us to live, and that makes heroes out of those that enter its warm embrace with dignity and courage.
3. Death as a scientific reality.
This is the death we see in statistics. The death of doctors and public health officials. It’s the death of lab rats and experimental bunnies. It’s the death of our food, the chickens, cows, and pigs that fill our bellies.
This death is cold and clear.
It’s undramatic and unemotional.
It scoffs at reverence or meaning.
But none of these are the truth of death.
The truth of death is something much more personal.
It’s a relationship, though a reluctant one for many. It is the real specter of death that sits behind the woe and wonder. It’s more than a fact and less than a drama.
It’s the blare of a car horn before a crash. It’s the desire to know how someone died as if you’ll be able to escape that tragedy yourself.
It’s the desire to paint someone’s life with poetic meaning, in the hope of making death seem more approachable.
This is the death that aches when someone you love is separated from you. It’s the death that appears slowly with wrinkled eyes and greying hair. It’s the death that you bump against when you find a lump. Wait for a test result. Or look back at a stupid risk you barely slipped through.
This is the death made just for you. Crafted, monogrammed, and delivered specially.
It’s a death no one shares. No one can look inside. It is as opaque as it is deep.
And it is something we each must face in our own way.
So much of what we think of death is simply a script, a habit, a ritual. When its truth is so much more intimate and potent.
You can see this death whenever you want. By simply looking in a mirror. It’s the death you can’t escape. And it’s the death that you can use in whatever way you want.
This is the truth of death, only you can know. That you can never tell to someone else. And that you will carry for as long as blood flows in your veins. And a spark appears behind your eyes.
Oh, how lovely it truly is.