Day n-1: Death

A section from my (hopefully) upcoming book, ”Home”.

 


I have been thinking a lot about Death.

Yes, I guess that’s how this chapter starts after all. I guess it’s the cleanest way. The most honest way. I’ve been thinking a lot about Death.

Always.

When I was about eight or nine, my great grandmother, who I love dearly and who I will always love dearly, was… there was something wrong. I can’t remember the circumstances, being so young, but as I remember it the idea was floating around that it probably was cancer. That she was dying. They were pretty sure.

It was expected. She was old, just around eighty or so. Past her life expectancy.

At the time I was still religious (in some shape or form, read more in whatever chapter I wrote about religion). More than that, I was still a child. I have grown away from the concept of childhood since, I think, even though I might not want to admit it (see, I admitted it). So, I was a child, and, like most children, childish. And, in being childish, I believed, in some shape or form, in magic and miracles.

When I was told (or learned or something, I don’t remember) about my great grandmother’s illness (or whatever it was), I prayed. I prayed for a miracle, I prayed for a cure, I prayed for something to be a mistake. I prayed for her to live. I prayed for her to stay with us. With me.

The day after, I learned that it had been a mistake. She did not have cancer. Something was weird, but it was alright – it just seemed like cancer on the surface and when they looked deeper it was alright. She was going to live. She was going to stay with us. With me.

At that time, as you, dear PR, probably guess, I assumed it was my prayer which helped her. In hindsight, I realised that I was wrong. First of all, it is possible if not even likely that this story is all a figment of my imagination. This is how I remember things going, but it’s likely that it really went very differently. It’s just an anecdotal memory of an eight-year-old brain a dozen years later. Second of all (as I discuss in too much detail in the chapters on Science, God, Superstition and other such topics), there’s no such thing as a miracle. There’s no such thing as a cure. There are aweinspiring advances in medicine made every year, and we should thank the amazing scientists and doctors for what they accomplish with that, but they are only postponing the inevitable –

Death comes to all of us.

Death comes to all of us.

Death comes to all of us.

*

I have been thinking a lot about Death.

When I was thirteen, a classmate of mine was killed by a large wave of water crushing his body, killing him instantly. It was the 2005 tsunami, and my friend was in Thailand. I knew he was there when it happened, but only learned that he had been a victim a week or so later. I remember my mother telling me after she had taken the call. I remember not being surprised.

In hindsight, ofcourse I was surprised. My friend had died. But I had no concept of what it meant. I had no idea of what Death was. I was only thirteen, and apart from my paternal grandfather, who I had had absolutely no contact with, I had had absolutely no contact with Death.

After trauma you often go into denial, and only later crash down completely. I did so after learning my father had been in a drunk driving accident. I did so after my most severe break-up, for that matter, not realising what had actually happened until later.

The scary thing is, I don’t remember crashing after my friend died. I can still see his smile and I can still remember him much better than I can remember any other classmates I had at the time. I feel like we are closer now than we were when he was alive. And we were never that close. Death took him away, and I don’t think I ever even realised it. I don’t think I was ready. I think I am now. I am waiting to learn that any of my close friends or my brother or my father or my mother or my great grandmother has died, I am waiting to hear it and to crash. In some sense I want to crash. In some sense I want to feel it. I want it to destroy me.

In some ways I still feel guilty for never crashing after my friend died. Some days I regret not going to his funeral, even though I know he’s gone and don’t mind.

It’s not only strange to imagine he has gone. It’s impossible. I am slowly starting to realise, day by day, that Death is a real thing and not an imaginary monster god in a Lovecraft mythos. I am slowly starting to realise, day by day, that Death is coming, and that Death is eternal.

Death comes to all of us.

Death comes to all of us.

Death comes to all of us.

*

When I was maybe five or six, I lay in bed trying to sleep when
I suddenly realised that Death is for all of us.
The concept had never truly struck me before, but now it did.
I started to cry and I ran to my parents’ bedroom.
I told mom what had made me cry.

She embraced me and didn’t let me go. I think she cried too. I think she too realised – even if not for the first time – the horrifying concept in it all.

Even the most religious person must find it hard to one hundred percent believe in an afterlife.

Everyone, everyone, everyone, will be scared to look beyond the veil. It is easy to imagine a paradise.

It is easy to imagine hell.

It is even easy to imagine, like I long did, an emptiness to stand in. I long imagined Death to be an empty hall for me alone, where I could never again talk, or read, or run, or explore

I cried for hours the day I realised how wrong I was.

Death is not only an emptiness to stand in. Death is an emptiness. Death is nothing. Death is an end.

There is an old, possibly aprochyful story about a believer who asks a non-believer where we go when we die, if there is no afterlife. The non-believer (and I have heard many famous names attributed, I have no idea who it really was or if it really took place), is supposed to have said

“When I die,

I go to the same

place where I was

before I was born.”

 

This is truly horrifying in my mind. It is not only a life changing abruptly. It is not a prison camp. It is not eternal sleep. It is nothing. It is a moment of last chance of thought, and then nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

 

For in that sleep of Death, what dreams may come?

I see, I hear, none more, none less, none now.

Forever and always, together in life,

An end to all eternal stuff of dream, of love,

Of legend.

And end to all adventures, thoughts and hopes,

of Her.

 

To love, to dream, to dream no more

To sleep

Ay, there’s the rub.

To dream, to love, to love no more

To Die.

Ay, there’s the

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  • Someone anonymous

    I tried to post here a few months ago, it didn’t work. I think you have changed your comment system since then? Maybe this one will work better. I didn’t save the text, so I’ll rewrite it, best I can remember.

    Why are you afraid of nothingness? Some will probably call me emo for this, although I’m not, but I actually find the thought that death is nothingness comforting. Not existing, there being no thought, emotion, senses.
    Even though I’m unsettled by it because of survival instinct and because it’s unknown, I don’t see it as scary or bad, I see it as neutral. I have full understanding for atheists that commit suicide, their life was simply much worse than neutral, and no hopes of it getting better.

    And why not, there isn’t much hope left. Earth’s resources are draining because of population and economy growth, and totalitarian fascism is rapidly building and almost nobody seems to care. Life becomes more complex and demanding for every day. One mustn’t do what one wants, and must do what one doesn’t want to. The trends are constantly increasing.

    But I won’t do something about it just yet. My life is still on the positive side of the neutral mark. Maybe I won’t later either, because of the feeling that I can help bringing things back to the positive side. Naïve me…

    I guess this comment seems rather worrying to you, but what is there to worry about? If I ever commit suicide, you can be sure that I would have suffered a lot more if I had continued to live. There’s no suffering in death, no feelings or emotions, remember?

    Survival instinct’s a bitch… Try to only think rationally about death, life, positive and negative, and remember that nothing is not only nothing positive, it’s also nothing negative.

    • Anton Nordenfur

      Yeah, I did change the comment system, the old one failed constantly and this one is easier to moderate.

      Thanks for writing, but I think we just have to agree to disagree. You write that you find the idea of nothingness comforting – well, that’s the very point, in death you can’t feel comfort, you can’t feel anything. You say it isn’t scary or bad but neutral, and yes, I agree. It’s the neutrality that discomforts me. Even a hell is better than nothing, as a hell has a chance of getting better.

      If you think the world is so rotten – do something about it. That’s exactly why I engage in politics.

      • Someone anonymous

        No problem with the late reply, thanks for replying at all. Maybe you’re right, we must agree to disagree. You’re right, in death one can not feel comfort, but to me it is comforting now to know that there is nothing more bad coming to me after death, as there will be no ”me” for it to come to. Of course no more good coming either, but still nothing bad.

        If a hell had a chance of getting better, it wouldn’t be hell. Maybe real death is optimists’ hell and pessimists’ heaven?

        I do indeed think that the world is so rotten. What can I do about totalitarian fascism? Vote Pirate, done that. Doesn’t matter as very few others do that. Be active and say that totalitarian fascism is coming, then I’m criminal they say, but I do it when anonymous, still doesn’t matter as people doesn’t give a shit. Do like Anders Breivik, no, I don’t want to be Mr. Evil, and it would only go against the cause. Send hate mail, no, don’t want to be Mr. Slightly Evil either, and still they would say I’m the problem or even that anonymity is the problem, and not that person or thing I am hating.

        What can I do about resources ending and pollution being done? For my own account I can refrain from buying unnecessary things, which is already very rare that I do. I can ”reduce, reuse, recycle”, already doing that. I could invent something that for example makes oil obsolete, easier said than done, and the oil companies would stop it from hitting the market, one way or the other. Different experts say different things about what’s eco-friendly and not, more often linked to what is good for ”stakeholders” than for the environment. The best thing to do for the environment on my own account is to commit suicide, and as I told you I will not do that, at least not yet. On other’s account, large scale sabotage would probably be the most effective, but as I said, I don’t want to be Mr. Evil.

    • Anton Nordenfur

      Oh, and sorry for the late reply.