I've been hesitant to write this blog, since the topic is one of those people don't like to discuss - namely death. One of things about being retired and middle aged is the lack of fear of publicly discussing certain ideas; it could be out of insensitivity gained with age or an attitude of more confidence in your ideas and thoughts. I think about death more often in the summer since it is the anniversary of the deaths of my parents and one in-law. (Please, this is not a persistent thought, I'm thinking at least 100 times more about the idiocy of current politics and when the current heat wave will break.)
I don't intend to be morbid or disparage anyone's beliefs about death and existence post death. Human civilization has as much a plethora of beliefs about death and afterlife probably more than any other topic in our existence cycle. The beliefs include a vacuous nothingness, a collective force we can't comprehend, and an Elysium where we relive with loved ones. (For years I had the belief you would relive everything in your life but be powerless to change any event.) I don't profess to be a thanatologist or member of the clergy. I just have my personal observations and some lay knowledge from reading on comparative Western religions with a smattering of Eastern religions.
I've been thinking about three deaths associated with friends.
The first death is the unexpected death of a friend's son almost two years ago by an IED in Afghanistan. I met his son a few times when he was young. This sudden, unspeakable death, affects me at two levels: the horror of this event with its permanent effect on his loved ones, and the thankfulness I do not have this type of experience. In a way, his son will live on every time one crosses a bridge named for his son and when he is discussed.
The second death is the recent death of the spouse of old friends from pre-Chelmsford days. This is the type of death to be expected due to illness. He was a great guy and the type of person who makes this country great: entrepreneur (ice cream shops) and master builder. Over 50 years of marriage. I recently Googled the house I lived in during midWest days and saw the deck he and his wife built over 30 years ago is still standing.
The third death is also recent, the death of the over 100 year old mother of a friend. This is the type of death expected due to old age. I never met his mother but heard a lot about her. From what I gathered, she had a hard life as a child and young adult, but then lived on her terms. It was interesting to read memories of her posted in an electronic memorial book.
When my parents were dying, and my perception of one of my in-laws dying, is they somehow knew their time had come and were not afraid to embrace physical death. The ride was over and they felt it was a good ride, almost as if they somehow knew it's time for the next ride. They faced death, not in a morbid sense, but a consequence of life.
Death is a natural part of existence. Don't think about it all the time, but see it as inevitable just as a newborn will walk, trees lose their leaves and a symphony or movie ends. We should embrace life, and support those who grieve on their own terms. Also, let the dead live on in stories about them, even if those stories become myths over generations.