NaNoWriMo 11/03/2007 - death

Her death was a shock. Not an overwhelming sense of loss or consuming grief, but a shock, something so far-fetched and unbelievable that he could not wrap his head around it. She’s gone. Gone and not coming back. What does that mean? Is it like she moved far away? Is it like she went up in a rocket ship and lost radio communication? Seriously, what’s the difference between someone in your life moving away and never seeing or hearing from them and someone dying? To you, does it matter that they died the day after they moved away or that they lived a long and happy and fulfilling life and is still alive? Is that what someone means when they say, “you are dead to me.”???

Death equals loss. And when that death happens to someone so young, someone just beginning their adult life, the loss is devastatingly profound.

When someone older dies, you can try to find words that console, that make some kind of cosmic sense.

“He lived a full life”
“She touched so many lives”
“He is at peace”

But this death, this ending of a short life, what do you say? What can you say that would make any sort of sense?

What can you possibly say to the husband, whose last name she just recently made her own, who not so very long ago recited vows - till death do you part? What can you say the can possibly help make sense of the huge void - the emotional chasm that he now faces? There are no words in any dictionary in any language that mean anything.

And what can you possibly say to the parents? Their daughter? The physical manifestation of their love for each other, the next step in the cycle of life, now broken? Dead. This is not how life is supposed to happen. This is not how life is supposed to end.

Still, there is the matter of the wake and the funeral - occasions where words cease to work, where we’d all just be better off quiet and mute, not awkwardly searching for something to say to make sense of this. Because, at the end of the day, there is no making sense of death. It’s just too big for us to fathom. A dog can’t begin to fathom Shakespeare. We can’t begin to fathom death.

The insidious thing about death is that it makes you question life. Even more insidious is the fact that death gives meaning to life. Without death, what is life but an endless succession of days? What would you do when you are 4,000 years old that could possibly be interesting? What fun would thrill-seeking activities like rock-climbing, sky-diving, and bungee-jumping be without the sweet risk of death.

Conversely, death is defined by life.

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