The intention behind this entry is to offer some food for thought to contemplate certain topics more deeply and perhaps discuss more openly when social etiquette considers them uncomfortable or even taboo. This year alone many of us have tackled insecurities, judgment, identity, and forgiveness, among many other subjects, and now, as the year is coming to an end, I figured we can talk about the end.
Regardless of race, gender, religion, age, political affiliation or even species classification, what we all have in common is the very thing we’ve been raised to never discuss or even think about: death. Any mention of it is often considered morbid, defined by the dictionary as “an abnormal and unhealthy interest in disturbing and unpleasant subjects.”
Our culture celebrates youth and vitality by efficiently filing the elderly and less-abled into retirement communities, practically out of sight. How are we supposed to develop a healthy relationship with these facts of life and death if we don’t see or talk about them on a regular basis?
In what used to be minority circles (interracial couples, for example), the rule of thumb has always been: visibility leads to acceptance (the more often we encounter something, the more comfortable we become with its existence), be it women in power, same-gender couples, blue hair, etc. So the opposite must also hold true: the less often we see something, the less prepared we are to deal with it. Even if you’ve ever seen a corpse, it was probably in a coffin, wearing makeup, and dressed in fine apparel. This gives a whole new meaning to “out of sight, out of mind.” If we don’t see it then we don’t have to deal with it, which is wrong. We do and will have to deal with it, but if we’re ill-prepared for death when it comes in whatever form it chooses (either for someone else or for ourselves), then the experience can be downright devastating when it doesn’t have to be.
So how is it that despite death being all around us, we’re still shocked by it the same way a lazy student is thrown off by a pop quiz? I mean, from a very young age life has prepared us for death’s inevitability by first taking our goldfish or dog away, for example, then our grandparents, parents, friends, often without any warning, and sometimes very early on. Yet people still claim to be devastated by the loss of a loved one who was taken “unexpectedly.” How is that possible? Even if they mean the timing was unexpected, having an expectation that someone, anyone, would live to be a certain age before they die is proof that we are not honest with ourselves about death’s seemingly irrational timing. Somehow, in our generally overly pessimistic society, we are unreasonably optimistic about how long everyone we know is going to live (including ourselves).
I would love to see us more honest with ourselves about the fact that anyone’s last breath could be taken at any moment. I think we would appreciate each other and life itself a whole lot more. We would save ourselves much devastation while significantly increasing our celebration of every living moment, don’t you think?