I just got back from a funeral. Friend from back in the day. She was only twenty-seven.
For fifteen years, this has been the longest stretch of time I haven't been to a funeral. One whole year. Starting Sophomore year of Highschool I averaged about five (funerals) a year. All people my age or younger. All friends. Suicide. Pediatric disease. Car accident. Drug overdose. Time and time again. I've lost one Grandfather and two Great Grandmothers. The rest have been friends.
I have much to say about death. In fact, I am often consumed by the idea that we are going to die. Morbid? I resent that. To me, the constant reminder of our limits on earth make me want to press mine. Instead of hold back.
I have learned to be strong. To keep my composure when I hear of death. I don't want anyone to see me cry. They cannot know that I'm in pain.
I wonder how obvious it is that I am so fucking full of shit.
Where I am strong at any other time, my armor falls off at funerals. I lose it. I cannot breathe. Sometimes, in a church or funeral home, holding the hands of friends and loved-ones, it feels good to break down. To collapse. To let myself cry. Be afraid. Confused. Angry. Ask questions. Pray to whatever higher power exists. Because I'm allowed to cry. I'm allowed to break down.
The service was beautiful. Her brothers are my friends. Amazing family. I cannot bear to look a mother in the eyes after losing a child. Not anymore. And yet, she was able to look into mine. A mother is capable of carrying on with the weight of the world on her shoulders. Laughing in the rain. Comforting those who came to comfort her. The power...
I have always wondered why death is so scary, besides for the obvious reasons- it's an unknown. No one knows for sure what happens. The end? Is that all there is, my friend? We are here one day and gone the next, but beside that, why is death so scary?
I believe that our mutual fear of death means something much more profound. Affirming, even. It means, although sometimes we forget or may not know, we are happy to be alive. We bitch and moan and rant and rave and throw tantrums and hate ourselves and "loathe our lives" and wish for this and that and if only I could lose ten pounds. If only we could afford that mortgage. If only I could fit in.
But at the end of the day, we want to be here. We want to make it. Make something. Make it better.
As the James Kim tragedy has proven, an entire country can mourn the death of a stranger. A fellow parent. Father. Millions of people can relate to a man lost in the wilderness. Someone, lost. Someone who had to be found. And that brings people together. From all worlds, and all sides of the tracks. And without knowing, suddenly we are all holding hands. No man (or woman) is an island.
Millions of people can relate to losing a friend. A sister. A child. And so through death, we find the light in those we love, and in ourselves. Through death we hold hands on stained pews, even when we don't know the people sitting next to us. It doesn't matter. I know how you feel. So do I. We can relate to one another in silence. With our eyes closed and the stench of tears we're either trying to hold back or let go of.
We say our farewells and leave the church. We throw roses on the casket. We all join hands. We hold on. To each other. To ourselves. To the chair. We write songs and letters and cook meals and cry in one another's arms. We say the things we should have said yesterday. We do the things that might have slipped our minds before.
As artists and writers and working people, knowing we will die is our biggest motivation to keep working. Harder, faster. Quick, strive for perfection before the clock stops. And if I die before I wake...
... Then I don't know. I have no idea.
I do know that as one life slips away far too early a new one arrives in its place, bringing with it restored hope, faith and the realization that humanity is capable of the most generous, wondrous, miraculous things. That love is all around. And that no one dies in vain. No one leaves the world without leaving something behind.