It’s good to talk about death

Since finishing studying, I’ve thought about death a lot. More than usual, and also more acutely. It’s frustrating because you imagine it should be a time of endless freedom and happiness, not brooding about dark things. It began to hang over me heavier and heavier, like a dark smelly blanket, but I didn’t want to talk about it. Especially not with my family. Which is ironic because we talk about death all the time. But on a tangent. Dad goes to his second cousin’s funeral. Viv talks about another nasty medical case – she’s reading the blog of a woman who died of cystic fibrosis. A bird whaps into my sister’s window and dies slowly on the sill. But that’s their death. Not ours.

Yesterday I dug out a box of old photos from the attic, and found us as little children, and my parents in their thirties. Everyone looks so young. Mum and Dad are slim and smiley with soil-dark hair. Me and my sisters are tiny, cute, and simple. That time is gone and it’s not coming back. I sat down on the sofa in the evening, and began to cry. Silently at first, but soon tears were streaking down the side of my face, and I brushed them out of the way like an angry toddler, sinking into the sofa, wanting to vanish. The room shook, black and blurry. Everything seemed so unfair. Why do we have to die, and no-one tells us why, or what happens after. Why is there no certain light to scald away the worst fears. I cried and cried, and it felt like I was quite alone, and nobody could understand, and I could never talk about it with anybody.

Which is funny, because of course really you can talk about death with anyone. We all get it. We’ve all thought about it. We (almost) all know people who’ve died, people we cared for. We all fear our own death, and most of all the death of our loved ones. Or lie awake at night, feeling the pulsing abyss somewhere close by. It’s funny the words that that stay with you. Woody Allen can’t tell his children of his terror of the void. And I barely remember talking about death with my mother. Not properly, not in the “Mum I can’t stop thinking about death I don’t want us all to die” kind of way. Only as a child. Now I don’t want to bring it up. Which is silly.

Because like a bogeyman under the bed, death becomes less scary when you tackle it straight on. And this time sobbing on the sofa was like the storm which clears the air. I talked to my friend Emily for over an hour, and afterwards felt a lot better. The conversation wound back and forth across the full emotional spectrum, and by the end I was laughing. Now it was back to the old cliches. Death is but the next adventure. . Death is natural. Death should not break us down, but spur us on. It is the contrast against which our life gains its shine.

Of course, it’s hard to do this topic justice on an ordinary day like this. Not a day when a friend died, or someone got cancer, or I almost fell off a building. But then again, most days are ordinary days. They matter too.

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One Response to “It’s good to talk about death”

  1. Oscar Says:

    Thanks for writing about this. I agree with you, and I think death is something we should talk more about. Instead we avoid it like a plague. Even though it’s not a plague – maybe it’s actually the ultimate healing. But talking like that draws strange glances and is not quite accepted. But I still frequently look forward to heaven, especially when I’m feeling down. For me death is something to look forward to, something potentially extremely liberating (though also something you have to wait a long time for). But then again, I still haven’t experienced the deaths of anyone close to me, so I’m sure this feeling can change in the future.

    I don’t have time to write more right now, but I appreciate what you’ve written.

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