Let’s Talk About Death. Yeah!

Once again it is nighttime and everyone is sleeping, but me. This is often how I spend this time of night; listening to the in and out breaths of humans and/or dogs around me, and thinking about how everyone including me and including my dog, without hesitation, is going to die. I can never figure out why this thought drowns me at times. But sometimes it’s so incredibly real that I have to talk myself out of thinking about it. Like eternity. Like time and space. Sometimes it’s too much.

And other times, also mostly at night, I think about what an elephant in the room it is; that we’re all going to die, and nobody is talking about it. And if you try to talk about it, you’re either morbid or misunderstood, or both. And that doesn’t make the infringing feeling of The End feel any better. I think about death in many capacities, but mostly I think of it in my own terms. How will I die? How old will I be? How does my story end? These are all silly meaningless questions that I can’t know the answers to. So why are my dreams filled with me or Monty dying all the time? And why do I always stop at the obituaries section of the newspaper? I’m pretty sure that means I am morbid, and that’s been something I’ve insisted I’m not. Crap.

You know what happens when there’s an elephant in the room that nobody talks about? Well actually, I’ve never heard the answer to the proverbial question, but I think it goes something like: Eventually the elephant poops and everyone at the cocktail party is like “Hey!! There’s elephant poop in the middle of the living room!” and everyone freaks out and screams and before you  know it your guests have ruined their shoes and saying “We should have seen it coming.”  If they just would have  talked about the elephant in the first place, it wouldn’t be such a surprise coming across elephant poop in the living room! Get it? Human Death is the elephant poop in this analogy. Did I make that clear? I’m not very good at this. AM I. Anyway, I use that analogy because when someone hears about someone dying, it’s exceptionally hard to grasp the idea. It is sad. It is tragic. But no one ever says “Mary died today, and this was supposed to happen.” I hope someone says that on the day that I die. But what we say is “You’re kidding! It’s not right! It’s not fair!” As if we were ever promised to live forever. As if dying wasn’t a part of the deal the whole time. Funny how we act about that.

Maybe all this death talk is because I’ve been feeling so deathly lately. I was on a pretty good streak for a while there, I’d been doing better than normal. My energy level was up and my pain tolerable. As a result, I pushed myself a little bit over the edge so today when I softly blinked my eyes open around 7 AM my head was like GOOD MORNING YOU HAVE A MIGRAINE TODAY. And I was like, “Loud and clear. Thanks, head.” Not the best way to wake up, but once again modern medicine rescued me. Now I am migraine free, but wide awake and wondering if I should sketch out my funeral plans. OK, sorry, I’ll stop with the morbidity. But I’d like to let it be known, it doesn’t depress me to talk about death. In fact, it excites me. I don’t think you should sit around sulking all day. But I don’t think it should be avoided like it is. Once my brother Nick and I were talking about it, and he said “I mean, it’s gotta be a cool experience, right?” And I totally agree with that. Death has to be cool. But most people don’t wanna talk death with me. They wanna talk about birth control or facebook or Mitt Romney and sometimes while people are talking, the words “We’re all going to end up dead,” are circling around in my mind in one of those cartoon bubbles.  And I say these words with joy! I swear. It doesn’t make me sad. It’s just such an incredible mystery. Why aren’t we talking about it?! Can’t a girl just get a cup of coffee and have a light hearted conversation about life and dying and tentative funeral plans? Good grief.

I guess I am still working out my death issues. This is the part where I wish I saw an analyst so I could say “My analyst seems to believe I am going through a minor existential crisis as I confront my own mortality and begin to humbly accept that this life, while precious, is temporary.” But I don’t. Analysts are expensive. And my mom is pretty good in these areas. Anyway she says the death dreams are just my subconscious fears playing themselves out. I suppose it’s your basic fear of the unknown. Plus, its not like I’ve been able to ask any of the people I know who are dead to tell me about the whole dying thing. Wait, that is a really good idea. Why haven’t I asked all the dead people I know how the whole dying experience is?! Duh, I have so many sources! I’m going to say a little prayer tonight, ask for some answers, and hopefully stop thinking about the things that I cannot control and that I can’t know now. Everything in due time. Everything.

Health, Happiness, Elephant Poop.

 

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21 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Death. Yeah!

  1. I totally agree with you! I don’t think it should be a scary or uncomfortable subject to talk about. I think the over all lesson here is to live your life to its fullest, so when death comes, you will be just fine. Thank you for posting something like this!!
    P.S. I really enjoy your writing! You are fantastic! :) Also, I hope there are some feelin’ good days ahead for you!!

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  2. I have an auto immune condition, too, and it’s not uncommon for me to wake up in a lot of pain and weird heart palpitations. I’ve had the heart thing checked out and they say it’s fine, but you never know. Anyway, the thing of it is, no one knows when it’s their time, not even if you’ve just gotten a bona fide clean bill of health.

    When you have a debilitating or progressive illness or have to undergo surgeries, though, you’re more likely to think about death as a real possibility (but we all know it’s a real definite). So, yeah, I think about dying a lot more than the average person.

    Coming face to face with my own mortality or limitations hasn’t been a bad thing. It makes me ask the hard questions, like would life be worth living if I couldn’t move at all? Would my existence have been worthwhile if I never did another thing? I believe every one of us was put on this earth for a particular purpose, the first being to have a relationship with our Creator, to know him. This is one of the great privileges of being alive. I can do this in whatever capacity he gives me, for how ever long I have on this earth, and then for eternity. This life is only the beginning.

    I’ve gone to bed at night, my heart beating strange rhythms, catching my breath at times, wondering if I’ll wake up the next day. But I know my life is held in the loving hands of my Maker. There is not a breath that I take, a heart beat that’s skipped, that he doesn’t know about.

    So I tell my husband, I know you’ll miss me if I go before you, but I just want you to know I’m okay with it. Sometimes I wake him up in the middle of the night and say, my heart is feeling funny. I just wanted you to know I love you, in case I don’t see you in the morning. Morbid, huh? Haha, he’s used to it by now, and I don’t think it’s morbid. It will happen to all of us one day. I just want to be ready.

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  3. Death is a funny thing, and one where the conversation direction is entirely dependent on the manner (and age) in which a person dies.

    No one wants to talk about a kid dying. But we know it tragically happens.
    No one wants to say “Well, Jean’s freaking old. Should be any day now.” But yeah, a 95 year old person is gonna be on their last licks.
    No one wants to think about dying by murder, or cancer. Or drowning (that HAS to suck).

    Like you said, if we’re going to think about death, we want to think about going out awesomely and without suffering. On our own terms. And I think that’s pretty much what it all comes down it: It’s not that we don’t want to talk about death. We don’t want to think we’re gonna get shafted when our time comes.

    Most people end up getting shafted. Even though we know, ultimately, everyone’s gonna peace out eventually.

    For ten years, I grappled back and forth with whether or not I wanted to hear about my Dad’s final moments (he was killed on Sept. 11). When I finally spoke to the man who was with my Dad and he told me the story without much of an option on my part, I found myself grossly fascinated by the retelling. I didn’t necessarily want to think of my Dad in that way and what he went through, but…turns out I actually had been curious. In that horrible, oh my God I can’t even imagine type of way.

    But I still wanted to know.

    Sometimes, we die in horrific ways. Other times, we go out with a bang.

    Just like life, some people get lucky in death and die doing something they love or peacefully at a ripe old age. But for the mass majority, we’ll probably end up with the “it’s too soon” story.

    A learned defense mechanism to deal with the entirely arbitrary process of how we die.

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  4. i like talking about death too. it is a very simple yeat complex thought that draws different possibilities with atleast one sure conclusion- that it’s for all of us.

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  5. Morbid thought: I sometimes wonder if the people who don’t update their blogs may have died.

    Elephants: I don’t know if elephants in the room actually poop indoors (I believe they’re quite civil animals), but I do know they’ll occasionally mosey over and just sit on someone, and you’re right, we all then freak out at how unfair and unexpected that was.

    To think of death is to think of life, to have a good death is to have had a good life.

    In Latin America we have death festivities, death celebrations and old aunts that extensively recount the stories of deaths in the family. (We even have death worshippers, La Santa Muerte, but that’s a different and strange story.)

    In Todo Santos, All Saints Day, we’ll put up altars in which pictures of the deceased are placed as well as special meals cooked for them since there is the belief that they come down from heaven to spend a day with us. As education and progress grow these and other traditions fade, it’s not good or bad, just change.

    When I was eighteen I was in a situation when I thought I was going to die, we all did, I cried in silence and damned myself for having been so stupid and having got myself in that situation. I thought of never seeing my family again and felt desperately sad.

    Fast forward to last December. On a sunny day while motorcycle traveling through rural Bolivia I had a very close scrape with either death or major physical injury, left sprawled and hurting on the dirt after being hit by a speeding Hummer. The driver didn’t stop to check if I was hurt or dead. Not the first such instance and probably not the last.

    What was a first though, was that night, lying in bed, going over what had happened, I thought to myself, “That would’ve been a good way to die… it would’ve been a nice day to die.”

    Thanks for writing this post… life goes on, and so do we, until we don’t. I’m ok with it.

    Paraphrasing J.L.Borges – that divine instant when the weight of the universe is lifted from our shoulders- , I think he had got a point.

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  6. I don’t think you’re morbid at all. Death is a fascinating topic, and one that doesn’t have to be melancholy or sad. It’s something completely inescapable, so why ignore it like it’ll never happen? Your post actually made me feel better about myself because I think about death a lot too, although I don’t usually talk about it. Every time I cross the street, I think that, any moment, a car could come out of nowhere and I’d be long gone. Or I look at my fluffy white cat, who is now 9 or 10 years old, and think he’s going to die too, and I don’t know how I’d take it when he does. I’m not afraid of death though. I sometimes think that if someone held a gun to my head and said I was going to die there and then, no way out, I’d just accept it and I wouldn’t be afraid. I feel like if it was my time then it’s my time, just like when it’s everyone else’s time. I’m friends with the elephant in the room. It’d be nice if everyone else was too.

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  7. I took a whole class on Death & Dying in college and I remember sitting there and being amazed at the people who were up in arms that the teacher asked us to examine our own mortality and write our own obituaries. I had fun with mine, dying while skydiving for my 60th birthday. =)

    That said, I also have discussed death with my best friend and we have a pact that I will do a reading of “Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Bear” at her funeral if she dies first. If I die first, she will be doing a dramatic reading of “Rubber Ducky, You’re the One” ala William Shatner style. There so better be an afterlife….I’m gonna be PISSED if I can’t see it!!

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  8. I don’t think it’s morbid I think it’s realistic. I’ve always been upset when people say “I don’t want to talk about it” like not talking about it will put it off for awhile. I also think it’s ridiculous to not go to the doctor because “if i’m sick and dying I don’t want to know”. I think that’s selfish and foolish. We are dying from the moment we are born, and some of us don’t even make it out of mums tummy alive. Death is like that. It’s impartial to race or religion or age or innocence or evil. We all die.
    My dad is dying sooner than he expected. He’s got stage 4 primary liver cancer and an estimated year left of life. He’s not an alcoholic or even a “drinker” by their standards (one or two beers a month) and all the liver specialists at Johns Hopkins say “YOU shouldn’t have this kind of cancer!” it’s a complete anomaly. Needless to say, we’ve been talking a lot about death lately. It’s sad, but it’s not the dying part that’s sad, it’s the part where I’m going to miss him. It’s the part for us left behind. I know he will be in heaven (I’m a bible thumping born again and so is he) and I know for him death will be healing. But just talking about his death and OUR life without him is sad, and it brings us a lot of tears.

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  9. This doesn’t make you morbid or weird, at all. And if it does, then count me in for a party full of morbidity. To be honest with you, I think we’d all be lying to ourselves to say we never think about death. As humans, its probably pretty natural. (At least that’s what I tell myself to feel better for pondering so much about it). What to hear something to make you feel better? Just say yes, because I’m going to tell you anyways:
    I go through spurts where I become slightly obsessed with the thought of ‘what if’ I died. This usually happens after I know someone who passed away. I start to imagine myself in my car and think, “What if this car comes crashing into me at any second, and I die instantly? Will I know I’m dead? What will I do… or will there be complete blackness? Will I even have the ability to think about these things? Will I be watching myself from above, or will I be dancing in the clouds like in the movies?” We’ll never know, and I think that is part of this obsession about it.
    On a side note, I’m more afraid of thinking about a close friend/family member dying because at the young age of 26, I’ve never lost someone very close to me. I have frequent nightmares that my parents die and all I can do in the dream is sob until I wake up with a wet face and chest pains…..

    Now that you think I’m officially more weird than you are, the point of my post is that we all have our different ideas/viewpoints about it. I LOVE your analogy and you’re 100% right. In fact, we are one of the few cultures that does NOT celebrate death because of the life lived. (Sorry for the essay! haha.)

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  10. I too often think of death and deal with it as a-matter-of-fact business, because it is. I had a Will written when I was 18yo and a ‘what to do if I go into a coma’ paper because IT’S POSSIBLE. Be prepared, it’s easier on your loved ones. We are all dying, some of us are just dying faster than others.
    If you can’t deal with that, then I would say you are unhappy with life, and you need to change some things and make yourself happy. No one is promised tomorrow.

    If you are having trouble sleeping, try reading through Ecclesiastics and the book of Psalms in the Bible. Try praying to God, you might get some answers and comfort, if you need some.

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  11. oh, fibro-my awesome, I would so talk about death with you. I’ve recently been obsessed with a stream of light I suddenly saw in my peripheral vision. It wasn’t the glitter in my eye make up (i checked several times) and it wasn’t from a lamp, because it came out of the corner of my ceiling (like a star was shining through the roof and the walls. My intuition tells me it was a message from the other side, you know, the place where our souls go to “RIP”. Maybe i’m just bored, and want it to be something cool, but Im seriously considering it had a much deeper meaning. If you really were able to get some dead people to give you any information of any kind, I have this crazy gut feeling it would have light involved. And now I will give you a moment to decide if i’m crazy or not.

    But, for the record. I’m not, just so you know. Highly imaginative+intuitive, yes I am, but crazy, noooooo I am not. At least not on paper.

    also, my secret thoughts about death is F*** yes! I get to check out of all this bullshit someday, and go on an awesome adventure where anything is possible, and maybe even get some answers to things, like “why did my precious little daughter have to have a birth defect that left her disfigured?

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  12. I just wanted to stop by and say that every time I read your blog, I think, “this girl might be the most mature 20-something I’ve never met.” You are so sweet, so smart, so passionate, so insightful…and so, so, so, close to hitting on the exact point of life: to know and love deeply the God of the universe so that he gets glory and we get joy–through all situations, all struggles, all of life’s crap and all of life’s good things.

    I don’t even know you but I love you and want to tell you what an encouragement you are to me. I have vasculitis and deal with unexplained ailments a lot (not anywhere near the way you do, but a lot) so I feel some kindred connection with you, like I think a lot of people do. And somehow, by his grace, God got a hold of me a few years ago and I’m able to have clarity and joy and purpose through it all. You’re so close, girl…I honestly think God’s woo-ing you. And there’s nothing…not a single thing…more wonderful than that. But you won’t believe me until you get there and experience it for yourself. Be bold and just ask him to show up and prove himself to you!

    Thanks for doing what you do. Keep doing it and God bless. Really! I hope he blesses you and heals you!

    -Sarah

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  13. Mary, you should watch a documentary on Netflix called Afterlife. It documents a study by some scientists on the subject (by interviewing people who have had NDEs) and their conclusions. It’s really cool. I think about death a lot, too. I am not afraid of it, but I’m pretty sure that decisions we make in this lifetime will affect us in the afterlife so it is great to have that eternal perspective on things so we can make good choices in the here and now. One of the things the scientists concluded was that love is an important concept in the afterlife and that learning to love is one of our tasks that we are meant to accomplish here.

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  14. Mary, Awesome post and brilliant insight in to the whole human drama. It’s about time someone is talking about it and especially someone so young. It’s your path in life to contemplate these kinds of issues. When the universe takes away your ability to function in the outward world it is clearly guiding you inward…there is no where else to go. You have been chosen to explore the mystical side of life and true mystics actually die before they die. They enter a place where they no longer see the two worlds (inner or outer) they see that we are really all one from one source. There are very few who follow this path to enlightenment but I believe it is really the purpose of everything. You can spot a true mystic by their sense of humor because they see the ridiculous things we get hung up on and just start to make fun of themselves. You definitely have that flair. Your dad thought his purpose in life was to make people laugh. I think he is right. Laughter is one of the best feelings in this world and to write about death in a humorous way is so refreshing. Keep it up.
    BTW nightmares are a part of this illness for many who have it. It has to do with the sleep center in the brain being affected. Your grandpa had especially bad ones due to his narcolepsy. I just think that when you have them so often you’ll get desensitized and then maybe begin to see dying as a freeing experience rather than a fearful one. Thinking about death and talking about it doesn’t mean you will die anytime soon but I think most people feel like if they talk about it somehow they open the door to it happening….and therefore somehow it wont happen…crazy. There really is no death only a transition to beauty and love and Nick is right it has to be an awesome experience. Mom

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  15. My whole late-night-thinking-about-death-even-in-the-shower period happened when I was a Junior in college and my grandmother had passed the last year and then my grandfather of that year. It freaked me out to think that these two important people in my life weren’t ever going to be in this realm of reality. I wasn’t ever going to be able to say ‘I love you’ or ‘I can’t wait to see you when I come home next (or to Chicago)’. I found myself in states of pure panic in the shower thinking, “Am I going to get bored in heaven?” Yeah, I really thought that. I went through all the things I’ve wanted to do my whole life and experience and realized that the afterlife is eternity. I’m totally going to run out of things I want to do. And then there were the moments were I felt this perpetual knot in my throat that there wasn’t an afterlife and the whole dying experience was going to sleep when you didn’t want to.

    I don’t know what your experience with Fibromyalgia first started out like, I’ve just luckily found your blog, but I remember when I was a teen and I was diagnosed, the diagnosis was the finish line of heart murmur scares and valve damage. Were I went through that experience I feel like there isn’t a darkness that I’m attracted to, but a curiosity about death and all things that linger with the notion.

    I don’t know, I feel like I’m rambling, but I just wanted to let you know reading your blog has helped me cope with Fibro’ and all the “fun” things that come along with it.

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  16. This is a well timed post for me, seeing as a family friend passed away yesterday. Unfortunately we never know when it will be our time to go, and it makes you realise that you should get out and do as much as you can while you can. When I die I want to be able to do it with no regrets for the things I didn’t do or say.

    And thankyou for helping us all to avoid stepping in the elephant poop!

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  17. Sometimes I wonder the same things. Why is it so difficult to accept death as something normal if we have never been promised immortality? Honestly, I don’t care whether I will wake up tomorrow or not but when I share my thoughts, people always ask what’s wrong or label me as terminally depressed, suicidal, etc. Do I really need to be depressed to have such thoughts? I don’t think so. Even at my happiest I still don’t care. Are we really living if we spend our whole life focused on the fear of death?

    As for nightmares… Stephen King’s novels are chick lit compared to what my brain serves me at night but I don’t really care. It’s better than insomnia so I don’t complain :) .

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  18. Fibromy Awesome. I like this blog. In my community people fear death so much and no one even talks about it. Forbidden subject. So much so that when one dies they say everything beautiful about you so you do not come back to haunt others. Kindly read my post,”I want to die tomorrow, so everyone can speak well of me.” I think its a good laugh on the fear of the unknown.

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  19. I think about dying sometimes too. Also at night. I’m always the last to fall asleep in my house, so while I listen to my daughter and partner breathe I quite often get overwhelmed by the fact that both these precious people will one day die. It is sad, but you’re right it is meant to happen. I hope some one says that when I die too.

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