0643 – greet death at the door

A friend’s father passed away earlier today. I talked about him getting cancer in word vomit 0010. This is word vomit 0642.  0010 was in December 2012. It’s now February 2017. The man battled cancer for 4 full years. I wasn’t close to him, but he was just one of those figures that’s sort of in the periphery of your life. I remember him as a man who was gracious, gentle and yet firm. He had a calming, grounding presence about him. He seemed to me to be a man who took care of business. I could respect that. It’s sad to think that he’s gone, but it’s also heartening to know that the love he put into the world still lives on in his loved ones. And even in me, in a small way.

I got the news when I was sitting at a table with my colleagues, laughing and having coffee together at the end of a work week. It was an interesting, jarring experience for me to be in those two places at once. To glance at my phone and consider the profound sadness that my friend must’ve been feeling at the loss of his father – how thoroughly his universe must have been shaking and bleeding around him – and then to look up and see the smiles and laughter on my friends’ faces. I chose to be still in that moment, to allow myself to be in both worlds at once. In life we are in death, all the time. We live in a social reality that hides this fact from us most of the time – unless we work in an emergency room, or a children’s hospital, or as first responders. I think about this every so often when I’m on my daily commute, crushed against hundreds of other people. Surely, in the course of my day, I walk past people who are ticking time-bombs. We are all ticking time-bombs, of course, but some have far less time on the clock than others. I wonder how many know it, I wonder how many don’t. I wonder how many people I’ve spoken to or made eye contact with who have died.

We’re all going to die. We’re all getting closer to death every single day. It doesn’t always feel like it. It’s so easy to be swept up in the currents of everyday life, to think that all sorts of little things are “important” when they’re really not. It’s really true – that one day you’re going to get a phone call that the most important person in your life has died, and on that day you’re going to realize how little anything actually matters. The only thing that truly, deeply matters is love. It’s that we treat each other with kindness and respect and grace and decency. And again, these things are easy to talk about when we’re in the mood for talking, when we’re giving sermons, preaching to the choir. It’s much harder to hold on to when everyday reality kicks your teeth in. [1]

I’m sure I’ve written about this several times over the course of these word vomits. The one that strongly comes to mind is when Lemmy Kilmister died, right before the wave of 2016 celebrity deaths that troubled so many people. I found myself reflecting and reminding myself – this is not a practice life. This is it. We’re live. We’re on air. Wherever you go, there you are. If you’re not here for this moment of your life, you’ve missed this moment of your life. That’s it, that’s all there is to it. There are couple of other vomits circling around the same ideas – 0538 – red in tooth and claw is about how civilization is sanitized and cleaned up in a way that isn’t representative of how death and decay is so much a part of life. And in 0637 – YOLO, I thought about how it would be a good idea to have some sort of regular tempo for reflecting and meditating on death, to think about the transience of all things.

I definitely feel like I don’t do that enough. I don’t slow down enough. And I don’t want to slow down simply because I think slowing down is a sexy, high-status thing to do – I want to slow down because I think it’ll help me appreciate life better, help me enjoy more out of life. I’m kind of hedonistic that way. I want to experience a wider, broader range of what life has to offer. 10 years of life should be different from 1 year of life repeated 10 times. I’ve already repeated myself 2-3 times in the past few years, I think. It’s very important to me that I start doing things differently, I start appreciating life from newer perspectives. My current configuration has gotten stale, and that itself is a sort of minor death – the body is alive, the heart is beating, the nerves are firing, but the soul is disengaged. And by soul I mean the deep subconscious, the dark, watery subconscious where most things are going on most of the time.

The end of a life is a sad thing. We the living live amidst death, constantly. If nothing else, we should use death as inspiration to live harder, live with great fury and intensity. Live, damn it. Live.

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[1] I’m thinking now about stories I’ve heard about stubborn old men who disown their children or family members to communicate disapproval, and then show up at their funerals as though that makes them ‘a good person’ in some way. Like they’re finally willing to bury the hatchet… now that the other person is dead! That won’t do. That reads like cowardice to me. If you’re going to be so petty as to ignore someone while they’re alive, then have the conviction to continue to ignore them upon their death. Making some sort of twisted exception for death (especially in view of others) doesn’t make you a better person, it makes you an opportunist. I suppose I would have less of a bad opinion of people like this if they went to the wake(s) in private, or at least avoided making any comments. But if you go to the funeral of someone you ostracized, and then have something to say… that’s pretty despicable.

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