Life and Death

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.



foodiemama | 7:20 PM

sorry about your friend.
beautifully written post, thanks.

moe berg | 7:40 PM

very well put.

hang in there.

Anonymous | 9:04 PM

I'm so sorry you lost a friend, and one so young. I hope the strength you need finds you when you need it most.

Lovely words, Lady.

Anonymous | 9:33 PM

Truely amazing post. You have such a way with words. I am sorry for your loss, and filled with joy for the new cookie. What a circle this life is.

Anonymous | 11:08 PM

it is amazing how much i can relate to someone i've never met. when I read your writing it feels like i am reading my own feelings/thoughts/words although much more eloquent than i could ever express them. loss is hard. loss also makes us appreciate what we have not yet lost. i never know what to say when someone loses someone because i don't know what i want to hear when i lose someone. i face every situation with humor which usually makes others a bit uncomfortable. it's just that i am uncomfortable and weak, yes weak too, and don't know how to say that. it's easier to laugh than to cry. but sometimes we need to cry. ~jjlibra

Unknown | 12:31 AM

wow...that was an insanely beautiful post. You need to write a book. Like, right now and let me buy it.

Anonymous | 2:14 AM

i met you once in LA with my friend Ali (What doing?) it was only for a bit, but i was intrigued. we were on a girls gone wild trip (whistler meets halifax meets san francisco meets santa cruz). it was fun times. i've read your posts on and off for the last two yrs. PTSF and then GGC.
i am a funeral director/embalmer apprentice. although i deal with death day in, day out, it's never easy. it's never the same.
kudos to you for such a wonderully, amazing post. your honesty is what makes me realize why i do the job i do and why i love it so much. helping others during a time of need. even though i may never see these people again, i think of them often. sometimes too much.
thanks you for such a lovely post.

Anonymous | 2:34 AM

I know thia seems our of the norm... But its not how she died or why God took her, which we will never understand. It is What her purpose was in those 27 years. Did she fullfill her life in such a short time. Did she do what she was "suppost" to do already? I dont understand death. But we all have to go. Some sooner then others. I remember when my grandmother died, and I was like.... WHY? WHY her? I was being selfish after all the woman was 91. Before my grandma passed I knew nobody that had died. I didnt cry. I didnt go to her funeral. I would sit on the phine with her, when I knew she had a limited time left... and she would tell me. She was ready and she understood that I didnt want to be at her funeral. I wanted to remember her strong, beautiful and full of life. Not weak. Not Sick. Not dead. I do though her believe that God has something planned for each and everyone of us. When our time comes... we get to go home. Home to all that love us.
I love you GGC.


Sandra | 6:16 AM

I don't even know what to say about this ... I am left without words to resond to this stunning post.

So I'll borrow yours ... "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"

Momo | 9:25 AM

Today it is one year since my uncle died...I've just came from a family reunion in his memory...I really understand your "etat d'esprit"-The death of a loved person is one the greatest causes of sorrow that smb can experience. May your heart be filled with an undercurrent hope.

ewe are here | 2:13 PM

I'm sorry about your friend.

You've written a lovely post about loss. Truly.

I especially like your last paragraph, only because it reminds me of when I lost my dad a couple of years ago; a couple of weeks later, we realized I was expecting our little boy. When told, my mom said 'You lose a soul, you gain a soul.' And she was so right.

Peace to you and yours.

Girlplustwo | 2:28 PM

beautiful. and am sorry for your loss.

it's the circle game, round and round it keeps playing.

Mom101 | 5:02 PM

That last paragraph really resounded with me. I've always noticed that a couple always loses someone just as they're about to give birth. I don't think it's a coincidence.

I'm so sorry about your friend.

Kristen | 7:02 PM

I'm so sorry for your loss.

I love the simple and profound truth you pointed out, that a fear or anxiety about death implies a love of life, a desire to be here, to be better. It's so beautiful. It's a Wonerful Life is on TV right now; this seems like the same message.

Creative-Type Dad | 8:39 AM

So young...very sorry to hear that :(

kittenpie | 9:02 PM

You know, GGC, I totally do too, and I always think they seem almost designed to provoke the reaction so people can get it all out in the proper time and place and maybe it's supposed to help us move on after doing the grieving.

Anonymous | 8:09 PM

Your post sparked a strong memory - the service for my high school advisor, who died of ALS. I lost it. I can still see the scene, clear as day.

We typically think of death in terms of our families - grandparents, aunts, uncles, even parents and siblings. But if we think back, I know most of us can recall so many others - friends, parents of friends, friends of the family, acquaintances, and even strangers whose stories have touched us.

I'm sorry for the loss of your friend.