Thoughts On The End
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Politics and Activism

Thoughts On The End

Rambles and questions on death and dying.

Thoughts On The End
Hug by Saccstry

There is no siren. No great flashing signs, big neon lights, ringing bells. Not even a beep. There is nothing that tells you, this is when you are going to die. This is the last morning bird, the last sip of coffee, clock out slip, text message. Nobody says this is the last kiss, the last rent check.

Nobody tells you, today is the day you’re going to die. There are warnings, sometimes, if you’re lucky. Maybe even a roughly estimated expiration date. At the bottom line, everything is there until all of a sudden, it stops. You don’t realize for certain that it’s ending until the moment that you do, and by then, it’s already too late. We don’t have to process death when we are the ones who are dying. But where does that leave everybody else?

Fifteen years ago the other weekend, on September 11, New York City stopped. We as a nation witnessed a mass tragedy. We are reminded constantly through radio commercials, buttons, trinkets, stickers, sports casters, strangers. Meanwhile, a good friend of mine is struck by a car and pronounced dead on the scene. She isn’t in the headlines. She is merely a blurb in the local web based news source. But we will mourn all the same.

Different religious institutions have customs, theories and etiquette for loss. For instance, in Jewish culture there is a seven day sitting Shiva, for the family of the deceased to mourn with memories, support and prayer. This is how they work to understand, compress, and proceed with death. Bumbling about sharing their sad with each other. What if they share their sad, however, with someone who isn’t? How are they supposed to react? When it’s not their funeral to attend, not their empty backseat, just a name and a wet pair of eyes speaking it?

How do we delineate death? How do we talk about it? After I heard the news about my friend, my head was spinning for days. I was imagining her laugh, wondering if she saw the car coming, if she was awake when the ambulance got there, if she hurt. Thinking of her eight year old son and if he would understand. If any of our friends could really understand. If anybody actually understands.

Every time I tell somebody why I’m moving just a little bit slower, talking just a little bit less, I usually leave the conversation feeling the need to apologize for allowing my feelings to take up space. Sometimes, for not letting them take up enough. Whether or not I was doing the right thing by talking about it at all.

Every stranger to my friend had responses which boil down to the same awkward condolences, redundant and arbitrary. Or, better yet, the nosy ones, the ones who ask all the gore-y questions, wanting every detail. They pry as if it’s the major plot curve in the latest Netflix original, not the girl I was sitting on the front porch sipping on strawberry shandy with last week. It’s like they’re insensitive on a bad moment and uncomfortable at best. The tender shoulder press, the pouted lip, the cock in their head, a slow “yeah” from me and then the subject is changed.

I’ve never found the Guidebook to Human Interaction, and I’m sure that this section in the Social Culture chapter would be scribbled over, torn away or otherwise defaced, if it was there at all. With my luck, we weren’t meant to know. The instinctual fear we have of dying, the struggle to cope, unspoken social criteria. Whether it’s expressing condolences to a friend, teaching children about why their dog isn’t moving or why grandma doesn't visit anymore, making a phone call to somebody unsuspecting. It’s never easy.

Is it death or grief that makes us so uncomfortable? Is it simply because it’s one of the only things we can’t control? Something we struggle to understand? Something so inevitable, so final? How do we lend support without perpetuating, invalidating, or isolating?

Where is the vocabulary list? The script?

We didn’t get the memo on the words to say, or when we would have to say them. Nobody told us this would be their last hello, the last laugh. We were left off the mailing list.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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