If you know enough about the show House, you probably know where that title comes from. I recently watched the House finale, and while I was slightly disappointed in the moderately dramatic ending, this post is not about the episode. Following the night that I finished the series, my grandmother, my last living grandparent, died. While I’ve always thought long and hard about Death every time I’ve been confronted with it, this time I thought a little more. So this post is about what they say in the episode’s title, that Everybody Dies.
Death is a very uncomfortable topic for most of us, and unless you’re amazingly gifted in interpersonal relationships, we don’t particularly know how to deal with death, or with someone who’s lost someone. Sure, we have enough tact to offer condolences, but what does it really mean to do that? If you didn’t know the person who died, why do you feel sorry? In all probability, you don’t even know what the deceased meant to the person you’re consoling. Sometimes, the person could be hurting on a level where your words just won’t, and don’t reach, and therefore it doesn’t even matter if you’re around. Loss is an intimate thing. When you lose someone you were close to, your immediate response is to curl up into a ball and wonder why you didn’t have more time with the person, how it was that you forgot while they were living that they wouldn’t forever. It’s a time when someone saying they’re sorry for you loss falls flat, because all you can think of then is that everybody you know, including yourself, is going to die someday. That someday, someone will say those words to someone you’re close to.
Death is everywhere. Everywhere you look, people are dying in some way or the other. Train wrecks, shootings, bombings, natural disasters, you name it. A death toll on a news channel is nothing but a number to anyone who’s not related to the people that that number includes. Then why do we pretend to feel sorry for them? Why is it so sad that someone, in some corner of the world, stopped living? Everybody dies, so how does it matter how they do? No death is painless, so that can’t be the reason. I mean, I’ve never experienced it, but I have to assume that anything that, quite literally, knocks the breath out of you, can’t be pleasant. Maybe sometimes it’s because the people who died, died what they call an untimely death. Well, that doesn’t matter either, because you have no idea how their life was going to turn out, had they lived. They had to die someday, it’s just that they died earlier than the average human life expectancy. Their parents, friends, relatives, have all right to be sad because they got less time with them, but what right do we, as spectators, have, to feel sorry and say it shouldn’t have happened? Death is sad, because it signifies end, but it is in no way a spectacular enough phenomenon for us to be flabbergasted about every time we face it. We know it happens, and that should be it. I’m not saying we shouldn’t feel sad, I’m saying why treat it like it’s something that you thought was unimaginable, making it a topic of all our conversations, and all our thoughts. They stopped living, you didn’t. So what?
Sometimes I think it’s guilt. Maybe we feel guilty over the fact that someone died, and we didn’t. They don’t get the worldly things we still do. They are gone, and you are not, yet. Something like Survivor’s guilt maybe, just in a different situation, on a much smaller scale. You could feel it even if you simply heard about it over the news. It could be guilt over surviving, or it could be guilt over the fact that someone died and you feel a sense of relief that it wasn’t you in that place, in their place. So you compensate by feeling bad about it, condemning it if it was a terrorist act, trying to help if it was a calamity, or merely putting on solemn expression and saying you’re sorry if it was someone related to someone you know. We’ll never stop making Death out to be a taboo topic, because most of us don’t realize that when someone dying really hurts, it knocks out the breath out of you too for a second, enough to keep you alive, but leaving some part of you dead all the same. If you talk about it one minute and forget about it ten days, or a month later, you’re kidding yourself into believing that you are an empathetic person. The things you really feel, you don’t talk about. You let it claw on you from the inside and live with it, till you become something that will claw on someone else for the rest of their life. Everybody dies, but only a few people matter enough to us to say we wish they hadn’t, and really mean it. Anything else, everything else, is a lie.