Death. Even reading it or saying it to yourself can be kind of scary for some. Just the thought of it makes the mind want to immediately veer off into another direction for others. off onto another path-any path! Just as long as it's not that one. But death is a part of life, and everyone must experience it before they move on to whatever there is next. And it is not just people, but all life must eventually come to an end. And as far as I know, there is no way to get around this. For now, it is an inescapable fact. Note that I say "For now", because I believe that we will have in the near future the potential to change that to a certain extent. While we cannot defeat death completely, I think we will certainly be able to kick him in the balls and get him to back up out of our face for a while longer than our current "allotted span".
Scientifically, or logically, death is a very easily understood process. You start. You work. You stop. The reasons behind the stoppage are many and wide-spread, and can range from something as complicated as genetics to something as simple plain bad luck on a Saturday night. The living part can range from a few seconds to over one hundred years. The working part has so many different variables that there is no sense in even looking at that aspect of the process! Everything lives, therefore everything dies. No exceptions, no exemptions. The only variable we concern ourselves with is the length of time that the "you work" portion of the process takes. It doesn't sound quite so bad when you keep it in a scientific setting. It's.....clinical that way. Not personal.
Personally, death is an entirely different ball of wax! First of all, you have the relationship aspect. At what level was the relationship between the deceased and yourself at? Were they total strangers? An acquaintance or someone you may work or otherwise interact with in a casual or infrequent manner? A friend? Now-a close friend or one that is not so close, but more than just an acquaintance? Male or female? Sexual? Familial? Many different variables, just at the first layer!
Then, you have the manner of death. Was it natural causes or caused by someone else? Or perhaps caused by the friend themselves, although I would hope not. Those are always really messy! Was it an expected death or did it come suddenly, with no warning or signs and symptoms? Was it long and protracted or sudden, pain-free or pain-filled? Accidental or deliberate? Alone or in the company of friends and family? Or, as recent events have so clearly shown us are possible, at the hands of an enemy?
Then you have your personal attitude towards death. Are you afraid of it? Or uncertain, insecure, unknowledgeable, or just plain fucking terrified? Or, are you perhaps one of those odd ducks who see death as an adventure, a doorway into another realm or plane, or not as an ending but rather, a beginning. Or perhaps I should say a new beginning or even another beginning? Scientific or spiritual? Empirical evidence or faith? Or, in all likelihood, some odd mixture or blend of the two. That seems to be how most humans deal with the issue. The range of this mixture or blend of beliefs is truly astounding as well, from a simple cessation of existence and nothingness to elaborate ritual and ceremony celebrating not only death, but the entire process surrounding the event-social, political, financial, and of course the biggie.....religious.
However, there seem to be a very few fairly well-defined categories that the vast majority of humans fall into. You have those who are terrified and run away screaming from the very idea of death. They refuse to accept it until they are confronted with no other option, and then they usually disintegrate. As soon as the subject comes up in a conversation or similar social setting, they bury their heads in the sand and engage in denial in some form or fashion. They go through their life and death is quite literally the last thing on their minds. Then you have those who view death logically or scientifically and see it as merely the end of a process in which the next step is still unknown. These individuals are not necessarily not religious or spiritual, in fact many of them are men of firm faith in a spiritual path. No, these people have stripped away the mystical portion of the process and instead see it as the ending of a biological process and not much more. While they may not deny the spiritual or mystical component, they move it into its own category or place and deal with it separately.
You have those who attach the spiritual or religious component to the process of death. This-in and of itself and if there were no other reasons at all-shows the importance we place on this process we call death. We are so curious, so driven to seek out answers, so.....insatiable in our need to understand, to know, that we have, over the history of our race, developed this.......this thing called religion. I literally cannot find the words to describe my thought right now! We cannot, we will not believe that death is the end! This is practically encoded into our DNA, the desire to believe that the end is not....The End. That there is something else, something more after we have drawn our last breath.
From the very beginnings of our race until today, there have been a wide variety of rituals and ceremonies surrounding the process of death. From giving away all of the possessions of the deceased to burying it all with them. From elaborate tombs that took decades to build to a hole dug in the dirt. From extensive preparations to the body of the dead to exposure to the elements. Or fire. Did the dead person die bravely or in a way so as to bring honor to himself, his family, or his State? Was it because of illness or injury? In most religious belief systems, the manner of ones death is quite important, with some even going so far as to say that your "reward" is determined by the manner in which you died! For instance, in some of the Northern Pagan and Heathen belief systems, your status in the after-world was determined by the size of your "honor guard"-which was the number of men you killed while alive. In some Paths, you get greater attention if you die in some spectacular fashion while engaged in promoting your beliefs, while in others, the reward goes to the one who ate the most shit while they were alive. There are just as many ways of dealing with the concept of death as there are people dealing with it! What I mean by this is that everyone has their own belief and no two beliefs are exactly the same.
There are a few things about humans that you can always be certain of. The male of the species will invariably think with his dick instead of his brain. The female of the species will relentlessly point out the males faults-either real or perceived. The male of the species will find some way, any way, to manufacture alcohol or other intoxicants after a few days of listening to that shit.
These are the basic, bed-rock things, but there are others as well, things that you could actually say define us as a species. The fact that we are insatiably curious, and even death itself will not stop us in our quest for knowledge and answers. The fact that our brains recognize things that other mammals on the planet don't, or at least recognize them better than others. Things like patterns. Things like ourselves in shiny surfaces! Things like objects which can be re-tasked into tools and implements to make our lives easier and safer. The fact that our lives are defined by thought, rather than instinct. The fact that once we have set our mind on a goal, we usually carry it through regardless of the difficulties along the way, sometimes simply for no other reason than because we can. The belief that we are not alone, that there is someone or something else out there, and that that entity may or may not be responsible for all of this shit, and they may or may not give a fuck about what happened after they started they process or where it might all end up.
One of the other things that you can count on humans for is the fact that if we don't know something, we will damn sure make some shit up until a better answer comes along! We will make shit up that don't even sound close to the facts! Things like the world being flat, when any mariner could tell you otherwise. Things like man evolved from monkey or lower life form/man was intelligently designed. Crazy shit, like the God/Goddess is pissed and we need to....oh, I don't know, dum de dum de dum, THAT GUY! GRAB HIM AND TOSS HIS ASS IN THE VOLCANO! Or my favorite, "Ya'll done made Jaysas so durn mad! In order to save your souls from FIRE AND BRIMSTONE, ya'll need to send me a "love offerin' and I'll pray that durned Devil right outta ya!" Unexplainable stuff, like the fact that there are 27 different universes and Silly String exists in all of them or that energy cannot be created or destroyed, you can only change its form.
But when we are talking about death, I guess we pretty much have to talk about the process that goes along with it. After all, I think that is how we define death these days-how good the process that accompanied it was. Was it a "good" death, a "useless" or "tragic" or "un/avoidable" death? How we "fight" death, or how we succumbed to death after a long fight. As I said, everyone has their own opinions about death. Mine, while certainly not on either end of the spectrum, is nonetheless a bit odd or unusual seeming to some.
I simply do not care all that much about death. I have never feared my own personal death, at least not since I was young. The military has a way of convincing young men that they are at once immortal and invincible, and once you are experienced enough to realize that false sense of security for what it is, you are experienced enough in the ways of death to not fear for your personal safety in normal everyday situations or conditions. As you get older, you learn to do things that help increase your odds of avoiding death-simple, common-sense things like wearing seat belts when you are in a car or not driving under the influence, avoiding areas of the city in which your particular race or heritage is not necessarily predominant in or carrying a pistol when you do go to visit, eating right and getting a bit if exercise, avoiding excess in most things, and so on.
As far as the deaths of others, well, those feelings are a little harder to pin down. Acquaintances and even friends? I would/will/have some momentary feelings of loss of companionship and the sadness which comes along with that, but that is about all. Family? Depending on the relationship, but in general and oddly enough, just about the same.
But what about close family, such as Mum and Dad? Or immediate family, like the kids or the wife? Obviously, that will be a traumatic event and one that I am not looking forward to engaging in. That's right, where's the sand so I can bury my head in it? I'm going for a riverboat ride on de'nial. But just as obviously, it will also depend on many of the things we have discussed earlier.
For instance, Mum and Dad are both elderly, so those deaths are to be expected. They have prepared for the eventual end, and barring unfortunate circumstance, they know reasonably well how things are going to go. Of course, there is always the chance that they will die from causes other than natural as well. They could be involved in an auto accident or some sort of severe personal injury, like falling down and can't get up! They could be robbed or mugged, or fall victim to some sort of virus or disease. But in all likelihood, they will go out just about the way they figured, of old age.
The wife and kids are, of course, a situation all of its own. It stands to reason that, at this particular stage of our lives, dying from old age or natural causes is far enough away so as to not be a factor in this part of the discussion. That leaves accident, illness, or the actions of another. Regardless of the method by which death occurred, the resulting aftermath will be terrible. If it is as a result of some sort of accident or wreck and my wife and/or kids were to be killed, it would be best if the person who was responsible perished as well. Along with any others who might bear some shred of responsibility, as I will not differentiate between accomplices and primary figures when it comes to vengeance. With illness, it is kind of different I guess. I mean, you get sick, you see a doctor and they treat you. It could be cancer or some kind of fatal disease like AIDS or Ebola, and there is not much you can do. I suppose you could threaten the doctor, like they do in some third-world country, but it doesn't help. You are, in the end, kind of helpless, because you cannot fight this battle for someone. All you can do is be there by their side.
The actions of another. I think that, as parents, this is our greatest fear-that our child or children will be injured or killed at the hands of another, and we will not be able to prevent it. Whether it comes at the hands of frat brothers as part of a hazing ritual gone wrong, because of bullying or racial/sexual reasons, or at their own hand because of emotional or self-esteem issues. Because of a criminal act. Because they trusted their "friends" or got talked into doing something stupid. In a situation like this, I truly hope and pray that the individual is found by the authorities before I find them. That way they will have the opportunity to live a bit longer! If such a tragic event were to happen and the individuals involved were to be found by me, they would scream for a long, long time before I would let them go.
I do not look forward to the day when I have to face the fact that my wife has died, for whatever reason. I suspect that, regardless of my opinions and feelings towards death, that event will be the one that will break me. I am already on shaky ground at the best of times, and have been for many years, courtesy of the US military and the shit I done while there. I often make the comparison to that of a lock on a door-there is a bloodthirsty, unfeeling, heartless monster out there, and somehow, it managed to allow itself to be confined behind this door and locked away, because even though it is a monster, it recognizes the fact, just as it recognizes the fact that while it can never be "normal", it can feel love and even return it to the right person. The person who closed the door-from the inside. Should that person die, should that lock be "broken" and that door allowed to swing wide and the monster escape, it would be a bad thing. Especially when that monster realized once and for all that the only one who ever showed it love is now gone.
I would burn the world, that the smoke of its pyre would carry her to the Summerlands. I would give her an honor guard unmatched in the annals and history of Hell. I would storm the very Throne itself and demand to know.....why? Take me, and leave her. Or better yet, take everyone else and leave us! But take her and leave me at your own risk, as I will not be sane or balanced in my responses.
But these are things which will never happen, phantasmagorical events in the mind of a man already, for all practical purposes, broken beyond repair, made-up metaphor and allegory.
No, what I really want to understand is the feelings that happen when other people die. Why do I not feel sad at the causal event, which is the death, but why I feel sad at how it makes other people feel.
For instance, I have recently had a large number of deaths in my family. Altogether a total of five, and all from my mothers side of the family. Now, the first one was my aunt. Actually a great-aunt or something like that. My grandmothers last remaining sister. Anyway, she was a close family member. I grew up with my cousins and spent a lot of time at their home. My aunt was old, in ill health, and mentally ill, and her death was somewhat expected, in that we knew it would be a matter of time. When she died, it did not affect me at all, but it did, of course, affect my mother. After that, it was my grandma. Again, she was 93, in end-stage alzheimers, diabetic, and in poor health. Another expected death, although with this one, we knew several weeks in advance that it was about to happen. While her death was a blessing, it was also hard. Not on me, but on my mother. Now, don't get me wrong, I loved my grandma with all of my heart! but she was not "grandma" anymore, and hadn't been for quite some time. She was a stranger, and so her death did not affect me. Within a week or two of my grandma's death, my mother got word that her favorite cousin had died, which was followed less than 48 hours later by word that another nephew was in the hospital and not expected to make it (he didn't).
Each of these deaths did not affect me personally, but they were blows to my mother, and that did affect me quite a bit.
Yesterday I got a call from my mother to tell me that they had just found her brother-my uncle-dead in his home. This was the one that broke her. Her mother has not been in the ground for but a couple of weeks, and now her brother dies. This one was sudden and unexpected too, nobody saw it coming at all. She was hysterical and could barely speak, shrieking and screaming her despair, frustration, and disbelief, until I had to call someone from her church on another line to go over and get her. They said that she just collapsed when they got there.
Now, my uncle and I are not close, and we haven't been in decades. His death does not affect me personally. However, What my mother is experiencing affects me greatly! I feel frustration and anger because she is hurt and I would do anything to make her pain go away. I suspect that she will not get over this one easily, if at all. Currently, I have arranged for her to be taken to my uncles family for the funeral and all of the ritual the follows death, and I have people from her church to watch over her as closely as may be necessary.
This is very odd to me. I am not an emotional person on my best day, but I am very sad because my mother is sad. Not because a relative has died! I think I am just an emotional neuter, because this should not be right.
Any insights, advice, suggestions, comments, or other?