Sunday, June 23, 2013

Today We Remain

Death is awfully present in my life these days. A dear friend is dying. He's got stunningly good grace about it, but that's cold comfort. For him, for us. Frankly, the whole thing sucks. The dying, that is. His writing on the subject is impressive stuff.

It occurs to me, and this is probably obvious to you, that if you live long enough, everyone around you dies.  Beloved companion animals. Humans you can't live without. One day they're there, sensible and solid, saying things you couldn't make up if you tried, and then the next -- gone. Gone and done. Why is this so mystifying to me?

The math is clear: either you die, or you live on and those around you die. If you die, you (probably) don't have to face them dying, but otherwise, well, you do. Short of somehow managing to, say, drop an asteroid on yourself and everyone you know all at once (and if you have that kind of power let's talk--I promise to be very polite) either you go or they do.

Someone has to leave first. It can't happen any other way.

I don't know why this equation befuddles me. I feel like a child who can't understand simple single-digit arithmetic.

From what I can tell, most people don't face Death with much awareness. Whether because we're surprised, mentally altered, on meds, in pain, or in denial, most of us aren't very conscious of impending demise. Across the spectrum of human experience, we are primarily aware of others dying.

The point? The longer we live, the more it seems that Death follows us around, cutting down those near us. But that's only because Death hasn't yet put a hand on our shoulder. There's a wretched arithmetic to surviving those you love: someone has to remain.

Today, at least, I remain. As I watch those I love leave -- and prepare to leave -- I am reminded of how hard--how wrenching, how confusing--it is to be among those who remain.