Going into 2017, we should all have a healthier relationship with death.
For all 2016’s celebrity deaths – including musicians I love like Prince, Maurice White, and David Bowie – I don’t think it has been a terrible year. It has been a year that has reminded us of what we, as humans, can do with art, science, the written word, and consciousness – or lack thereof. It’s reminded of our zenith and nadir, both always within reach.
A healthier relationship with death sounds like a simple-but-depressing ask, I know, but think about it: in some relatively short span of time, you’ll be gone. Everyone you know will go soon before or soon after. It’s life’s only guarantee.
We don’t know what happens after death. Perhaps the lights just go out, the blood stops flowing, and things revert to how they were before you were born. Perhaps you have an extended dreamlike fugue that gives you an entirely new life in the mind; perhaps many. Perhaps reincarnation exists. Perhaps heaven exists.
I’ve noticed that people seem to have a relationship with death as if it’s the worst thing that can happen, as if it’s final. Death is an avoided subject until it comes careening down life’s proverbial road. But it’s not final and may only leave bruises, becoming a healthy reminder of life.
When my mom died, I ruminated on it for years. Twenty or so, to be inexact. I still have trouble with a lot. The sadness doesn’t go away when it hits that close to home. But slowly over time, her seeds of joy and love and laughter and openness have germinated within me and it’s given me a closer relationship with my mom, something I’m not sure would have otherwise happened until much later in life. I’ve been forced to truly consider her lessons from a distance and carry her torch. The essence of our loved ones remains long after they’re gone, and I’d argue forever – even after we’re gone – from the marks we’re all making right now.
Just the other day, a former co-worker died in a car accident. I heard early in the day but forgot about the tragedy until I was showering in the evening. It dawned on me that at some point, I’ll just be someone else’s thought in the shower, a fleeting memory. I realized this is akin to the reality of life. We’re only shadows in the minds of most, yet some of us allow ourselves to be consistently covered in darkness and weighted down by the perception of others.
It’s an unfortunate thing to lose life, whether your loved one or a friendly acquaintance, but it’s also a fantastic reminder that our own time here is limited. So is everyone else’s. Time should be celebrated, even at its end. The darkness that sometimes covers us passes like a storm, giving way to some of our happiest moments when we realize that we’re alive.
On the scale of the universe’s existence, our time here is worth seconds. Getting those reminders of our short time, even tragically, should be seen as a good thing. When I think in this way, petty fears disappear. I have life and a mind; is anything REALLY so bad?
Going into 2017, let’s celebrate life and not get stuck in the mire of misery. Death is only final for the person who lived the life, and even then – who knows? For the rest of us, the memory carries on in our subconscious. Every once in a while, we’ll have a shower memory. They existed. They’re apart of us. We are their continuing story.
Happy new year, all.