Encounters with death.

Death keeps coming closer, and I’m finding it hard to maintain my sense of detachment.

I don’t like death, for all that it’s an inevitable consequence of living, for all that we’re dying from the moment we arrive here on earth. For all I keep it in reserve as an escape option.

We’re marked for death from the moment we arrive; we’re mortal, after all. Coming to terms with that, accepting and living the truth of our mortality is difficult; I talk the good talk, but the reality of death is hard to deal with. [i]

Even so, I wouldn’t condemn anyone to eternal life. It’s the finite nature of existence that makes moments precious.

But I’m tired of people going. I am sick of learning another one has bitten the dust. My parents’ friends are departing this mortal coil at an increasing pace, and I don’t like it. Philosophical acceptance is easier in the abstract.

One of the last of my father’s friends died last night. Dad’s circle has shrunk to almost non-existent. It’s a scary thing to realize your father is standing alone. It hurts my heart to witness his despondence.

Robert went in his sleep, no long illness, no prolonged period of distress. May we all be so blessed.

Death is easier on the ones who’ve gone – they’ve simply shucked this mortal coil: those of us left have to experience the loss and their absence.

I’m trying to be stoic about it, in both little and big “s” ways.

Seneca makes a good point: “Has it then all been for nothing that you have had such a friend? During so many years, amid such close associations, after such intimate communion of personal interests, has nothing been accomplished? Do you bury friendship along with a friend? And why lament having lost him if it is of no avail to have possessed him? Believe me, a great part of those we have loved, though chance has removed their persons, still abides with us. The past is ours, and there is nothing more secure for us than that which has been.”

Death is natural. We can mourn those we’ve lost without crying about the unjustness of fate. Death comes for us all, sooner or later. It is part of life we must accept.

These are good thoughts, logical and full of truth. I want to accept them wholeheartedly, and for myself, I do. I think death becomes less scary when you’ve been close. However, when I try and extend philosophical equanimity to others, I struggle.

I’m afraid.

My parents are older now, beyond the average age for life. They’ve both lived longer than their respective parents. I try to remember that every day they’re here is a gift. Even when they annoy me. Especially when they annoy me.

I’m grateful I’ve not had to do what so many other friends have done – bury a parent.

But I’m aware that death is stalking them. It’s circling them, drawing closer, and that terrifies me because nothing can be done. I can’t halt the passage of time; I can’t stop death from coming to pass.

I’m trying to prepare myself for an inevitable loss. But, I don’t like it. My efforts in the specific and personal, as opposed to the general, lack grace. I wish wholeheartedly, despite it being contrary to my philosophy, that my parents would carry on forever, so I would never face a world without them.

Have you had much personal experience with death?
Have you lost immediate family members?
What helped you most?

[i] Other people’s deaths.

17 thoughts on “Encounters with death.

  1. Death and I are intimately acquainted and it scares the shit out of me. I don’t know how people can perceive loss of life so detached. Maybe they are on a higher spiritual vibration than me? Maybe they are ignorant and blissful. I will tell you working in a nursing home and seeing several loved ones suffer with death I have wished for it for them to come quicker. Seeing a person still physically present but their essence is gone. That is painful to see. We in the US do have a ton of hang-ups about grieving and death. We get so awkward about the whole thing. Yes, of course it’s natural- from the moment we are born. No, I don’t like it. And although I believe that people simply shift energy I would much rather have my mom, dad and brother in their human forms if I could. Personally (not that you asked) I wouldn’t bother trying to prepare. It’s natural of course. But frankly, a waste of emotion and energy. When it happens it will be nothing as you imagined. You will not feel nor act the way you pictured it. Thanks for this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I thought of several people as I wrote this and you were one. I’ve been lucky but I think you’re right – even if I try and prepare it will be like nothing I imagine. I wish that death came softly and peacefully and easily for everyone – that is something I really fear – that the people I love will suffer.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My experience with my parents. I hadn’t seen my mum for over 20 years when she died. I had already grieved for her over the years. I haven’t seen my dad for a few years and I don’t expect I’ll see him before he dies.

        I’m not afraid of my own death and dying. I often try to make it happen on my terms. Having recently find out that I have 2 or 3 years to live hasn’t been difficult to face. It’s quite a relief to be honest.

        My heart goes out to you though. You’re parents clearly mean so much to you and their death will be a big loss. When it happens it’s OK to grieve and it’s OK to celebrate the life they have lived.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve lost my mother. Way before her time. But what does that even mean? Aren’t all good people gone too soon? All I can say is that it’s a very bizarre thing to go through. You know it’s real, but it feels like it’s not. Here one day, gone the next. Erased. Earth keeps turning. Reminds you how pointless your existence is. However, then you remember, just like you pointed out with Seneca that while that person might be physically gone, they are still here in one way or another.

    I’ve watched my father struggle with losing his friends before she went. Now… he’s fallen apart totally. It’s not a pretty picture.

    As far as my death is concerned, I’d like to say I’m at peace with it and I live every day like it was my last, but I am human and somewhere deep down, I am scared of the unknown. Will I suffer? Will the people around me suffer with me? Will it be swift? Etc. But I choose not to dwell. Whatever happens, happens and there is no way to really prepare.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve lost immediate family. It was all tangled up in the rest of my experiences where I grew up and the circumstances of the loss itself. So, my feelings are…complicated…I guess. And buried behind the layers of glass through which I view everything from back then. But, I can understand the fear when I think about my Partner. I honestly don’t know what I’d do if something happened to him. I hope you have your family for many more years than the statistical norm if it is at all possible, and that when age does ultimately claim them that it is peaceful and you have those extra years of memories to treasure.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been an atheist for 20 years and I don’t know how those atheists who claim they don’t fear death do it. I sometimes lay awake at night terrified at trying to contemplate it. I don’t have a whole lot of personal experience with but I know my family is getting to that age where they’re going to start dropping like flies. Seneca’s words are wise though.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Em, this piece is touching. Death is something we can’t hide from, the idea is saddening but it is one of the surest experience everyone of us will pass through at different points in time.
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    Liked by 1 person

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