I don’t want to seem morbid with my thoughts about death, but lately, being ill, I have been contemplating my own mortality and what I have learned about death throughout my lifetime.
As children, we are often protected from the idea or knowledge of death out of fear that we are too young to really understand the finality. For some of us, we go through our youth without any experience with a loss through death. No one really wants to talk about it much. We are given ideas of what it might be like after death. What happens when our bodies are no longer animated and that life within seems to cease to exist. Death is frightening, gruesome, grotesque, and the unthinkable.
My first experience with a human death was when I was 14 years old. It was a very distant experience. My sister lost her baby to an infection of the myocardium. I was saddened by the news. I knew by then that death is final and is a loss. I cried because I would never know this Niece and I cried for my sister. The only answer or peace of mind was that the baby was now in Heaven with Jesus… Didn’t really explain things. Didn’t really help me to understand the immense grief my sister would have to endure for the rest of her life. Things will get better in Time, I heard repeatedly.
When I was 15, I was being dragged across the nation on a road trip I didn’t want to experience. It so happened that on the return trip, my parents took the wrong road and were lost. We were at least a day’s travel in the wrong direction. In the middle of nowhere, with nothing for miles, there was this little restaurant next to a little gift shop next to a pen inhabited by a few bison.
As my parents argued over the paper map and whose fault it is that we were now lost, my little sister and I were sent off to look around the little gift shop. It was at this pit stop of lost confusion I learned a very different point of view on grief associated with death.
Inside the restaurant, I met a man named Carlos and his Student they called EagleFeather. I don’t believe in coincidence and this meeting was very significant for me. During this encounter with this amazing human being, I discovered, I would never have another opportunity to meet this man again. He was going to die of Cancer before I would ever have the opportunity to seek him out. I was filled with sorrow with the idea that this will be the one and only chance I will ever have to speak with this man. I began to cry. I was told that we only grieve for ourselves. I was not sad because this man was going to die, I was sad for myself. I was sad for my loss. My loss to ever know him. It made me think about death just a little differently.
About 15 years later, I was confronted with yet another revelation of death to come. Only this time, The man who was going to die told me that it was a good day to die. Indeed, He died that night. I wasn’t sure if he actually believed that he was ready to die that night. But, it made me think. Why would it ever be a good day to die?
I soon became preoccupied with what it is like to die. Does it hurt to die? Are we aware of death as it is happening? What do I personally actually believe will happen when I die. Do I believe in an afterlife? Do we simply cease to exist? I was so preoccupied with death that I actually had a peculiar dream about it. It was dawn, I was at a friend’s house, it was a small farm. I found myself standing just outside the bedroom window watching people come and go. Most of them didn’t notice me and a few looked me in the eye as they passed by. A boy stopped to talk to me. Long story short, He said his name was David, He used to be alive but he died when he was 12 of Pneumonia. I asked him my questions about death. Does it hurt to die? He said Death is instant, it happens without notice. Pain is relative to what happens to you before you die but death does not hurt. I asked if it hurt when he died. He said no, dying of pneumonia was more of a discomfort… It made me think.
In my life, I have experienced the loss of loved ones, both human, and animal. I have grieved for my loss. As I deal with being ill, I consider, is this a good day to die? Am I ok with my life and will I be ok with leaving it? I realized, death is a part of living. All things have a beginning and all things have an end in this linear existence. I realized, although, I do not wish to die, I am ok with my own death. I finally understand why we grieve and why it is a good day to die.
When my time comes, It will be a good day. No matter if I die in my sleep tonight or in 20 years from now, it will be a good day to die. I will look back on my life with the knowledge that it is what it is. Death is not evil. Death is natural. It is inevitable. We all will die. Just like a rosebud that blooms and becomes a full flower, then withers and dies, such is all life in its time. Such is the cycle of life. Yes, It is a good day to die.