Blog post about death

I don’t know how to write about death.

I’ve tried to write this reflection so many times over the last few weeks. Unsuccessfully. A friend of mind died unexpectedly. He’s all I can think about right now — every morning, his name, on repeat — but writing about how I feel about his death makes me feel disgusting. I don’t want to write a sentimental reflection about how sad I’m feeling. I don’t want to write about how his death has taught me how important it is to live my life; life is fleeting, live each day like it’s your last. His life is worth more than anything that can be turned into a pithy inspirational quote whose purpose is to soothe my ego and my fear of the ‘next’ that may or may not come in my own life.

Still, I am going to try and write something about his death, about his life, about how much he meant to me, because these are the only honest topics that I can write about right now. And I want to be honest. I want to tell you that he was a terrifically kind person. Generous. Funny. He was a poet and filmmaker. He was a writer, a ‘wordsmith and idea alchemist’ (in his own words). I remember listening to music with him through a smart phone on the sea wall, the music playing on a low volume so we wouldn’t disturb anyone else. He once told me that he wanted to rename the letter W to ‘Wuh’ because he thought that it deserved to have its own identity, and when I learned about his death this was one of the first memories I got smacked with. I actually wrote a poem about it. Sat in my room and lit a candle. Wrote for two hours. Cried. Read what I wrote out loud. Cried some more. His life ended, abruptly. Of course I’ve cried. Of course I’ve felt angry.

My tears are honest. The excruciating ache in my heart is honest. His death and all the words I have at my disposal to miss him with feel empty. All I have are stock phrases meant to evoke emotion.

Concepts like death and forever have explanations that are incredibly unsatisfying.

… that there are limits upon sharing

as on pain and love

and understanding,

not to mention time,

which I am always mentioning

like a clock

that makes the round trip

of its boundaries over,

over, over, over

til it stops

at one fencepost for ever.

– Robin Skelton, Limits

After learning about his death, I felt instantly overwhelmed by the impermanence and importance of his life. That his life had meaning, not just to him, but to me. Has meaning to all the people who love him. I can’t make the word ‘love’ read as a past tense experience. The added ‘d’ doesn’t belong there. No. To call him “nothing but a memory now” – which I did – feels heartless and inaccurate. He was alive. That will always be true. My friend wasn’t always dead. At one point, not very long ago, he was alive.

Death is final. I don’t know how to relate to it. So here’s how I feel: angry, sometimes apathetic, sad. Really sad. There’s nothing to fix. Nothing to explain. ‘Death is just apart of life’ but my friend was only 29 and I miss him.

  • Andrew St-James

    Death is indeed such a hard topic for it brings our finality and that of others we love to a head. “What does it all mean” we cry out in the night. Understanding that we must live every day to the fullest, as if it were our last, is most certainly a healthy beginning in our quest to comprehend death. In its very essence, death does teach us to live nobly, valiantly and well. Good reflection Christine. Andrew St-James

    • barbara greene mann

      It’ s on mine. Living with cancer for 7 years, it’s growing , when did I get the facts, each MD has his own lie. I wake up each morning and sometimes it’s right there, usually,. Always. My cancer book, i’d rather do lunch was published once and I have the only copy. My computer died before me and my iPad won’t handle the task, my new paintings are blurry, 69 years old and iPads aren’t the same as a real camera which can’t be uploaded. Time races on and I feel handicapped. No computer, 6$ in the bank, where is my retirement plan my brother asked?
      Two, at least, books to publish but does it matter?
      I have dedicated my life to my career and I fave been dramatically updated by my psychiatrist that nothing I do can chance the fact that I will die. So be it, but not yet.