I have an intimate relationship with death. My father, friends who ended their lives, people close to me who committed murder, seeing people getting stabbed, shot, and being in a few harrowing close calls myself. Death is one of those subjects that fascinates me as a spiritual but non-religious human.
Christians would have you believe we enter the kingdom of heaven upon death, as long as you accepted Christ as your personal Savior. The Bible and Christian lore tell us tales of everlasting love and praise in God’s Kingdom, but that is predicated on one choice where you say, “I accept Jesus Christ as my Savior.”
Seems pretty neat and clean, doesn’t it? That’s the beauty of faith. You can believe the most ridiculous things in the name of it.
To me, death isn’t some neat and clean transition to the spiritual world of heaven. In fact, I have no idea what to expect when I pass. Am I to leave my body and see myself laying there dead while my spirit silently screams? Does the world turn black forever? What happens? None of us know, and despite our pearl clutching of religion, we only have guesses.
The one thing I know is your life is over. That is a certainty.
No shit you say. Amazing concept, isn’t it?
When I think of death, I don’t think of life merely ending with the unanswered question of “where do I go from here?” I think of the pain left behind when the last breath is gone. I think of family and friends being forced to cope. I think of the way we martyr the dead and gloss over any egregious sin committed in life so we can preserve the memory of the recently departed.
I did that same thing with my father when he died. I know the feeling of ignoring the bad and focusing on the good. Positivity upon death is a coping mechanism to rid your mind of lack of closure.
“Choose to remember the good times.”
“Don’t disrespect the dead.”
Repressing the bad in someone to appease some twisted moral code concerning death is about as helpful as using a knife to cut granite. Eventually, the knife breaks and you bust your knuckles. Your mind is the knife, and the memory of the dead is the granite — just in case that analogy didn’t click for you the way it did in my head at 6am after an Adderall and cup of delicious coffee.
As a demonolater (insert shocked reaction here), my relationship with death is one of acceptance and fear. I fear dying, but not because I don’t want to die. Rather, I fear it for the pain I will leave behind in others. I did not lead a perfect life. I have broken hearts, committed acts I regret, ruined relationships, and despite all the good I have done in my life along the way, there will always be those memories in others I can’t fix and needed to accept.
I fear knowing my loved ones will feel the pain of my passing, like I felt when people close to me died. Despite my acceptance of death, it doesn’t mean I am ready for it, or don’t feel the pain of a life ending. We spend our lives avoiding this subject because it’s a final act. For some it’s peace, for others it will be regret.
Where does that leave us?
Less introspective men will walk around with pocket coins and tattoos that say “Memento Mori” to show people how much they accept it, but the truth is we do not know until that time comes. Others will say, “This means your life is so important, because you don’t know when it will end.” A true statement which oversimplifies a complicated barrage of feelings.
I don’t know the answer to that question, because I am not that arrogant to believe that answer is neat and orderly. My spirituality doesn’t give me the definitive answer, and neither does your monotheistic trappings.
One thing I know is this: life moves fucking fast. I have been alive for 47 years, and I am more than halfway to the end. It seems like it moved faster than I would have liked. I have always lived life a little recklessly and willing to take chances. I have a business to show for it, but I have a lot of damage in the wake. When I die, I will have known I did the best I could, and tried to amend my wrongs. There will be people who love me, those who hate me, those who wish they never met me, and people I never met who wish they did. Most of all, I know that despite my study and acceptance of death, I have no idea what will happen when my eyes close for the last time.
That may be frightening for you.
I welcome that new adventure, wherever it leads.
Life is about death. This all ends. Fill the gap with your happiness.