The death of a loved one is something beyond comparison in life. Those who live through it, and must live with it, are forever changed by it. It is partly a loss and partly coming to terms with ones own mortality.

Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote:

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave,
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

In this quatrain, Millay is speaking of those who die peacefully in old age. But what of those who die young, or in war or from disease before their full life span? Is living to a ripe old age so bad? What is Millay really complaining about here? She is speaking of her unwillingness to accept death as inevitable. But it is certain of course – 100% sure! We all know this, but yet, as Dylan Thomas advised:

Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

It has been said often enough too that death is part of the natural order of things and should be accepted as such. The Greek philosopher Lucretius spoke of mind and body and spirit in his six-book Latin hexameter poem ‘De rerum natura’, usually translated into text form as ‘On the nature of the Universe’. As a pupil of Democritus and Epicurus, his mission was to convince his fellow human beings that death was no evil. That the substance of who we are, whatever that may be, returns to the universe in some way to rejoin with it. Perhaps merely as a collection of elements, perhaps something more. This is the realm of science and spirituality.

The british historian Arnold Toynbee speaks of this in his essay ‘Reflections on my own death’ where he says:

Every good thing has it’s price, and the price of being alive is to be separated temporarily from the rest of the Universe. The Universe is the self’s true self; and Death will re-unite my fragment of the great reality with the whole of it.

In this sense, there is an acceptance of the inevitable, even an embracing of it. This is almost Buddhist in thought – that since death is inevitable, mourning for the dead or worrying on our own death is not time well spent. This tells us that instead of worry about the afterlife, we should focus on how to act in the present life. Each of us will die. It is how we live that is important.

I would be remiss in my exploration here if I did not cover the religious aspect of things. Although I was raised Catholic, I have not practised it as a belief in many years. The book of Job was one I read quite a lot for it’s life lessons on hardship and faith. In the New Testament, Book of Job, it says:

Man born of woman has a short life yet has his fill of sorrow. He blossoms and he withers like a flower; fleeting as a shadow, transient.

A more characteristic response, and one to which I adhere to, is to strive to give open expression to one’s own grief and to confront the pain of having lost someone they love. Life’s experiences and the movement in emotion are what make life worth living. It is not always easy to give such open expression, and sometimes it takes time to confront it, come to terms with it, accept it, and express it. It is not an intellectual exercise, but an emotional trial. I am struggling with it myself right now and it is why I have written this blog. I recently lost someone very dear to me – My Mom. She always did call me “Brain’s”, but knew I had a deep and caring heart too. She will be missed in my life, but I carry her spirit and love with me always. She gave me life and much much more.

…and if you have loved well
then it will have been worth it
and the joy of it
will last you
through the end…

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