I have a friend who finds death not only distasteful, but personally insulting. Discussions with them are very interesting. In the process, I have come to understand my own view of death.
It isn’t death itself that is so problematic to me, it’s the severing of connections. When someone dies, that connection you had with them is cut. Even if the person died peacefully of old age, the severing has a violent edge to it. You cannot go back. You cannot have the connection back. You will not see them again. Those are harsh truths. They require grieving on the part of those who remain.
Death itself is a necessary part of life. Anyone who has had to put an animal to sleep knows this. It ends suffering. It completes the cycle. In those senses, I have no problems with death, even a violent or premature one: the being who died was in mortal peril. The body simply cannot hold out under those circumstances, and the spirit flees.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating violent death or premature death, suicide, homicide, or anything of the sort.
But I understand death’s purpose to the mortal beings of the universe.
Now, I told you all of that to tell you this: I lost a friend recently. She was old. She’d had a long life of adventure, kindness, and beauty. She was one of the best people I’ve encountered on Planet Earth. We are lessened as a species by her loss. Knowing I will never get another phone call from her where she’s pretending a horribly-done foreign accent hurts. The thought of never again getting to hear her laughter makes me weep.
But she was 92. It was time, her body decided. She’d had enough. And thus her suffering is ended – she did suffer. The last fifteen years of her life were spent in extended-care facilities and in a wheelchair. Her beautiful, whip-quick mind stayed intact and keen while her body fell apart. Her smile faltered and her happiness diminished daily. She had no close family to visit or mourn; the community was her family and she gave to it unstintingly.
So, I grieve. I, among many.
I don’t begrudge her peaceful death. She deserved gentle peace and a respite from the suffering her body inflicted on her. And now she has it.
But the connection is severed. My friend is gone. I am selfish enough to wish I’d had time for one more conversation, one more hearty laugh. There is pain where before there was joy. I may not agree with my friend who is against death, but I understand their point.
Rest well, Susan. You are missed. You are loved. May the next part of your journey return to you the joy you shared with so many of us while you were here.