April 20, 2007

Our house remains kind of a sad place tonight. Losing anyone or anything that has been such an intimate part of one’s life for more than eight years is not a presence easily replaced, nor should it be. The interesting and fascinating thing about death – of any kind – is its absolute finality. They say nothing in this life is absolute except death and taxes, but I have little doubt that, were I to still be alive on this ball of rock hurtling silently through space a year from now, I’ll have paid just as much – if not more – taxes than I did this year (which, BTW, was substantial). Death, on the other hand, brings with it an incredible kind of finality: there is nothing like it in the wide range of human emotion and experience.

Even for those of us who believe that this life of ours is not all there is – that there indeed is a heaven and a life beyond this where, somewhere down the line, we are reunited with those whom we have loved the most in the eternal light of God’s eternity – the death of someone dear still leaves an incredible vacuum. It’s really a ‘then’ vs. ‘now’ situation, in a very sudden way: there was the life you shared with that entity then, but now they’re gone and it’s a whole new deal entirely. There’s no half-means about it – death is that absolute. I can’t imagine what the families of those who were murdered at Virginia Tech the other day must be going through – after all, if someone you love has had a lengthy illness or is quite aged, you have time to prepare, time to arrange one’s mind in preparation for their departure from this life. But to have someone or something dear taken away from you suddenly – that’s the deepest cut of all.

To be sure, I’m not equating the loss of a rabbit with the loss of a son, daughter, husband, wife, or lover, per se, but if you love someone (or even some animal) passionately, it doesn’t matter whether that love is viewed as crazy or irrational or not – the loss is felt just as keenly. Tracey loved her rabbit in a way different from the way she has loved, or loves, her other animals; as weird as it sounds, between her and Marble, there was a connection beyond understanding, and who am I to judge whether it was right or wrong? Either way, the loss stings. And so it goes for each of us who loses someone dear suddenly.

I’m thinking that it is only the very prospect of death – of us, and/or of those we love – that keeps us (or, at least, the majority of us) honest and grounded in both our behavior and our outlook on life. Mortality, then, is a powerful force amongst the living. After all, if there was no such thing as a finite existence, would we cherish the moments we have with those we love the most? Would we tell those whom we love – whether it be in the same room, or hundreds or thousands of miles apart – how much we loved them if there were no uncertainty as to whether we’d ever see them or talk with them again? I think not.

Having experienced, in a variety of ways, both life and death, it is my view that the beginning of life (of any kind) and the end of it (in any way) is as holy an experience as anything we will encounter in our lives. To see the joy of a mother being handed her child for the first time, or seeing a cage once used by a single rabbit suddenly filled with a brood of hairless, sightless babies, is an amazing thing to behold – as is the tears and devastation on the face of someone you love upon hearing the news that someone or something they loved has departed this life. Either way, as Frank Sinatra once sang, that’s life. And I mean it – that is life, the world we have been privileged to be a part of and witness, for better or for worse.

And, painful or not, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:41 | Comments Off on Death and Life
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