In my lifetime I have seen death. My first true experience was with my grandfather, Granpa Milt. I was in high school. It was sad, but it was not unexpected. He had been ill for a while and had already had several close calls. When he died, he'd already lived a long and full life. When I was in graduate school my mother's father died. I was in New York, he was in California. Because of the distance, I don't think I ever really felt the full effect of his passing, and in some way, I'm selfishly glad for that.
The death that has most profoundly affected me was the death of my brother-in-law. Ten years ago this summer, he died in a car accident. He was just 25. This was not a death anyone was prepared to handle. To say that his passing was a kick to the nuts would be a gross understatement. When Mike died, something in me - in all of us who knew him, fell off the shelf and broke. Deep fissures of pain bore themselves into our ribs. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced, and something that I pray to the universe, I'll never have to experience ever again. I was the one who had to tell Big Red his brother was dead. I consider myself a bit of a wordsmith and trust me when I say there is not a single word or series of words that can capture what that was like - telling him.
While Mike's death was a tremendous shock, it was, reduced to its simplest form, an accident. When my both my grandfathers died, they died because they were old men. What about the possibility of death that comes not from an accident, or from old age, but from a disease?
I know a lovely woman who is battling ovarian cancer. She's beat it once and she's beating the shit out of it again. Most recently another woman I know was diagnosed with breast cancer - she too is lovely and strong and will fight this bitch of a cancer tooth and nail. I know a third woman, a friend from college, who fought and kicked Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma square in the balls.
We're never really asked to think about "the end" unless forced to do so because of someone or something in our lives. I know it can get a little nebulous and heady because, at least for me, death seems so unreal. To cease to exist is a concept that definitely warps your brain if you think about it for too long. Why don't we ever talk about it? Why is our culture geared towards ignoring the end when in fact it's the one guarantee we ALL have in this life?
And then the bigger question: what does it all mean?
I know, I know - this is big stuff.