Somehow death has gotten a bad rap. Death is just a part of life. Hear me out.
Think about it. Were you bothered by or afraid of your own mortality, your nonexistence, before you were born, before you existed? As Mark Twain famously penned, "I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it."
I like to imagine death is the best sleep you’ll ever get. Like after a glass of warm milk and a backrub-purring kittens on your feet, electric blanket, wave machine, pitch-dark room, post-coital glow sleep. There is no dreaming, no stirring. There is just blissful nothing.
Humans have a problem with the notion of nothingness, though. You probably picture nothing as blackness, silence, or that ominous, rolling cloud on The NeverEnding Story. But that is still something, isn’t it?
Sure, the death of someone you love is scary. Unthinkable. You may have lived your whole life with this wonderful, supportive person by your side, and it is terrifying to even fathom what life will be like without them. You can’t fathom, but you know it will hurt. Your life will go on, though.
And when your time for death approaches, you might linger before you succumb. You might fight and thrash and struggle. But that will pass as you do.
No one knows what happens after death. For millennia, humans have invented their own particular fluffy ideas of an afterlife. Is this simply because of the crushing fear of the unknown? Seventy-two virgins, pearly gates, a shiny soul in a new body? Are the legends of heaven, reincarnation, and eternal life there because of the all-too-human need for a cognitive crutch to mitigate that fear?
All I know is that since I started embracing the wonderful vastness of the universe, and I realized how lucky I am simply to be here, statistically, right now, pondering death with you, dear reader, I became unafraid. Why fear something that is unavoidable and inherent for all living things? Death just is.
I hope to live as long as possible. I take my vitamins, drink plenty of water, and eat leafy greens.
But someday I will die. And that’s cool.
It’s a nice story that someday you’ll be with your loved ones again. It’s a comforting tale to think that if you just say the right words and follow certain rules, you might be rewarded with immortality along side a photogenic divine creator with nice teeth and flowing hair. If you need that, go for it.
I’d argue, however, that the realization-that in all likelihood, there will probably be no glowing clouds, rainbow bridges, angels’ harps, ethereal light, paradise, or reincarnation as a pampered housecat-makes every moment burning, vital, and fleeting.
There is no place for grudges with that realization. No room for pride, cruel words in the heat of an argument, or a guilt trip to get your way. There is only room for kindness, forgiveness, and happiness. If you love someone, you better say so. If you are involved in a toxic relationship, it would behoove you to move on. Have you been hurt? Try to let it go, for your own sake. If you were planning on making a mark on this world, you should probably get to it.
Go, do that now. I’ll wait here.
As the wise Homer Simpson once said to his son, Bart, before tucking him into bed for the night, “Don’t let Krusty’s death get you down, boy. People die all the time, just like that.
Why, you could wake up dead tomorrow…”