“Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
-William Shakespeare, Macbeth
The last piece of chocolate; the ending paragraphs of a novel; the tight embrace with a love one whom you may quite possibly never see again. No matter the situation, we as humans oftentimes dread the end. With the end comes the final realization that something which has provided you with warmth, happiness, security, pleasure, and comfort is simply no more. The same can be said in regard to the natural and most significant ending of them all: death.
It needn’t be said that we all handle death differently. Some weep with uncontrollable grief, others stand resolute with stoic silence, while still others embrace death with open arms, greeting it like an old friend who has arrived to relieve our loved one from the pangs and suffering of mortal life. What’s more, funereal customs vary widely from continent to continent, religion to religion.
Despite all the differences that surround a death, there is one constant in every situation. For better or worse, a death takes a little piece of our collective existence to a location other than life. The experiences, memories, emotions, and relationships of the deceased are purged from this world and transported elsewhere. It would, of course, be presumptuous to definitively say just where or in what form this laundry list of primordial essences go, but it can be said they no longer inhabit the same space as we do.
It’s true that just because a deceased is not with us physically, they do live on in our memories and through other artificial means available to we modern 21st Century beings, but it simply isn’t the same as genuine human auras.
Perhaps the hardest lesson we must learn as humans is that death doesn’t have to mean the end. I’ll be the first to admit I am scared to die, not because I fear death, but because I well… I like living. But the fact of the matter is, all things must come to their right and natural ending.
What we should strive to achieve in our lives is to live it to its fullest existent. We should seek to do the most beneficial good to a greater society. We should seek to touch the lives of both those around us and those whom are strangers. Ultimately, we should leave our own lasting legacy on this world. It isn’t up for others to determine how we shall be remembered, but rather it is up to ourselves.
I write this post a few days after the passing of my resilient 91-year-old great grandmother. Born in the mid 1920s, she experienced the collapse of a prosperous American economy followed by a period of extreme economical depression. Soon afterward, as a young woman she must have lived in fear as the entire planet seemed to be at war with one another yet again. She saw the news reports that the greatest weapon ever had been dropped on a far-away Asian city, completing decimating well over 100,000 souls and forever changing the meaning of war.
This woman continued living through the radical protesting of the 1960s. Countless other wars in far away places she’d never visit. She survived so much economic, biological, political, and sociological transformations during her life and in the end she lost out to her own failing heart. This strong, never failing, unwavering, uncompromising woman was taken out by an 11 ounce organ the size of a clenched fist.
During the end of her life, my great-grandmother’s, like all of ours, appearance changed drastically. Her skin faded, her hair whitened, her body began dropping downward as if gravity was pulling her into the grave, demanding that she realize her time on Earth had reached its end. Nevertheless, her eyes never lost the piercing sparkle awarded to her by enduring all her generation experienced. It really is a shame that obituaries and funeral programs use the latest available photographs of the deceased in printed material instead of photographs of them at their highest point in life.
For I refuse to remember her as a frail, crippled old woman, but rather the steadfast, tenacious woman I knew she must have been during her prime. That was her. That was the legacy she left.
I know this is a sensitive subject with many, but please feel free to share your own experiences with death below. I found writing this to be very therapeutic to the emotions I’ve kept bottled inside these past few days.