That Subject No One Wants to Talk About
“It’s not the idea of death that bothers me; it’s the hours.”
– Woody Allen
I’m not a big fan of Woody Allen, but the guy has a point. It’s hard to think about the permanence of our own mortality or worse, the death of our loved ones. While it’s true that no one gets out of her alive, it’s also true that this is not a subject we generally like to think about—or for that matter, talk about.
And yet, as a woman of a certain age (translation: older than dirt), death has been much on my mind lately. This past summer, a dear friend lost her husband who’d been ill for some time. They had an exceptionally close, decades-long marriage. She wrote of finding him gone in his sleep and tenderly washing his body and reading poetry to him before she let his body be removed. I found myself grieving for her enormous pain and loss. It also made me think about the reality that barring the unlikely possibility that we die together, this is the future for either my husband or myself. To love someone fiercely is to open ourselves to the inevitability of loss. This isn’t one of my favorite thoughts, but it arrives unbidden anyhow.
Life is so fragile, even for the young. As many of you know, my younger son took a bad fall mountain climbing last summer in Mexico. He sustained multiple injuries and is thankfully slowly recovering. But the fact is, he nearly died. I shudder when I think about what this would have meant for his young family. Or for his brother and for us, his parents.
I’ve been thinking about how those survivors of serious illnesses who speak of the value of confronting death are on to something. It’s so important to savor each day that we and our loved ones are given. My gratitude that my son didn’t die on that mountain is more than I can find words for.
Nothing lasts forever, including us. But knowing that somehow puts everything in perspective.
Thank you for thoughtfully writing about a difficult subject. As you indicate, the best way to cope with knowing that we’re all going to die is to appreciate living! You’re certainly right that we think about dying more as we get to a certain age. We’re fortunate to be there and fortunate to have you write so well about it.