Think about death often? Not romaticized death, the T.V. and film death that always seems to have some kind of greater moral implication. I mean actual death. Not just nameless death either. The death of someone close. Someone you know.
I don’t. At least, not in an un-romantic way. I think about grand deaths quite often. Like, what if I were to die in a public shooting, trying my best to save someone else’s life. But that doesn’t really count, does it? It doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter about death.
The pervading emptiness which follows.
I’ve had several dreams about death. Most of them were my own death, so that in itself doesn’t really count either. And I was never afraid, I just didn’t want it to hurt. The fact that my life was about to end didn’t bother me, as long as it was painless. Maybe I’m just a sissy that way. But when other people die in my dreams, it counts for something. It’s horrible. More than once I’ve woken up actually crying out aloud.
I’ve once had a dream so real, that I had to call my mother afterwards just to make sure she was alright. And the period of unknowing before the confirmation that everythinng was indeed alright, well, it was painful.
You see, it’s been a long time since I had to face that kind of death. I had a grandparent who was very close to me die when I was younger. What’s funny is that I think I handled it better then than I would now. Perceptions were different when I was younger. There was still an entire life ahead of me, and too many things to focus on to be preoccupied with death for any great length of time. But that’s not the case now. I don’t have all of those other things to fill my life.
Scratch that. I do have things to fill my life, but they don’t seem to hold the same fascination that they once did. My attention span is shorter and longer at the same time. I’m just slowly running out of things to be surprised by. Not so with death. I don’t have the experience pool to draw from.
I’m now at a point in my life where I’ve become good and attached to things, and there are fewer things to replace them when they’re gone. Certain things are taken for granted. Expected. When they disappear, it’s going to take a lot of work to figure out how to get around that. The smart thing to do normally is plan for such a contigency. So how do we plan for the death of a loved one? How do we manage to remove them from our lives, get ready to move on, so that when the day comes we’re just glad we can move along?
I don’t think I can do that.
What’s worse is that I’m not getting any younger. I can no longer sit here and pacify myself with the thoughts that it won’t happen anytime soon. The timeline for loss is shortening with unnervingly increasing speed. Days no longer seem like weeks, it’s the weeks that seem like days.
What makes me think about this, is that very recently I found out that my grandmother has breast cancer. I guess it’s still small, and they can remove it without too much of a problem. But the operation itself is as much a threat to someone of her age as the cancer itself. Tomorrow she goes in for the operation, and the chance that she’ll never come out of it is uncomfortably high.
Normally I don’t think of 70% odds as all that significantly bad. So what? It’s still more than 50. Except there’s no second chance. We’re sorry, your grandmother didn’t recover from the anesthetic. And just like that, she’s gone. My grandmother. The woman who’s been a part of the life for the last 30 years. The woman I laughed with, yelled at, loved, been frustrated to no end with, and at times even made fun of. She always says to everyone, “You’ll be sorry when I’m gone.” Yeah, yeah, grandma, whatever. You’ve still got a way to go.
But she doesn’t, doe she? Now it hits me why she always said that, because she already figured out the same thing I’m figuring out now. She just figured it out fifty years ago. And all her attempts to jokingly prepare us fell on deaf ears. How could we take something like that seriously? We were all just joking.
And now I have to face the fact that today could have been the last day I’ll ever have heard her voice. I’ll have to find some way to fill that emptiness. What with? Memories? That seems like it would only make matters worse. I’m a guy. I don’t deal with emotions. I find ways to block them, to ignore them, to squeeze them out of existence. Reminding myself of how great she was is only going to enhance that sorrow. Sorrow and I don’t get along.
Then there’s the chance that she’s okay after all. Have I wasted my time worrying about her death, about digging up these horrible feelings from the bilges of my soul all for nothing? I’ll just have to do it all again someday, because as I said before, I just don’t think I can prepare myself for that sort of thing. It’s going to be hard enough to deal with those emotoins once, I certainly don’t want to have to do it twice.
So now I have to become a child again, and find something equally distracting that I can pre-occupy myself with. Something that takes away the fear of death. Not my death, that doesn’t scare me at all – until I start thinking about how it affects others, but that’s just crazy talk – but death of those who I have to replace, and can’t.
Question: How do you deal with death?