28 September 2012

The thing about death is....

it's permanent.

There is no coming back from it.  And it's an inevitable conclusion to life.  And yet, we are so woefully unprepared for it.  Not our own.  In so many ways, it's easier to accept it for oneself.  But for our family and friends it is something we wish we could change.  And it's a visceral and selfish desire because ultimately it is our life which is affected most profoundly by the loss of another.

The outpouring of sympathy for Jill Meagher's husband and family comes from the realisation that what happened to Jill was so random, that it could have happened to any of us.  And while our sympathy, thoughts and prayers are real, there is always an element of relief that it is not us.  Because how many of us have had no clue how we got home after a big night out, have refused lifts because the fresh air would do us good or have encountered dickheads along the way who might have given us a hard time but have passed on by?

A work colleague has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and we endeavour to wrap our minds around how one of the stalwarts of the company is no longer going to be around.  How do we we move from after work drinks, dinner parties and water cooler conversations to a silence that is irreversible?

Whether its sudden or drawn out, death creates an absence in our lives which we have to resolve - Find a new confidante, a new friend, a substitute mother, a mentor or hero.  Whether our relationship with the person was positive or plagued with difficulties, they generally help shape us, our world views and the person we become and sometimes, when they are no longer there - we wonder who we will be.  What might have been different if we'd had a bigger conversation or indeed a different conversation altogether?

And we miss them. And that doesn't change.  Not even with hallmark sentiments like 'to live in the hearts of those you leave behind is not to die'.  Because the physicality of death can never be eradicated by the fluidity and frailty of memory.

So, trite as it may seem, we should embrace life with both hands and our friends and family too. So that when the party is over there are no unfinished conversations and you can be remembered for who you are - with no whitewashing you into some kind of sainted creature with no flip side.

Because for myself, I do not want to be remembered in glowing cliches but as myself*.  Permanently.

*Awesome, self aware and occasionally (like once or twice only) - wrong.