Welcoming Death

I welcome death: not to be lowered into hollowed out earth, or to perceive a snapshot of the afterlife, but to greet the sullied concept into the vicissitudes of my daily life along with everything else trite. Now that I am in my thirties, death trickles in… In youth, most people know no death. Maybe a grandparent or a dog, but those are exceptional, special, sad. Death, however, is not common then. With an overdose here, a suicide there and an occasional freak accident, eventually death knocks at our everyday door for entrance, to be welcomed into our mundane lexicon until it becomes as common as the morning sun. I’m excited everyone is finally catching up.

For me, death has always been there, or at least since my father’s death. Most people can recall vividly their worst memory. Not because of its impact, but because it’s sealed within you without any hope of extrication. One sight on the day of my father’s death is that memory. I had not known my father was dying. He had cancer for several years, but I was twelve and stupid. This sounds surprising, and even amusing in its naiveté, but I had not known that my father could die. It was not a possibility that my mind ever broached. It never entered my train of thought, no matter how sick or lifeless he was. I did not deny the future, but simply did not recognize it.

On the last day of his life, I went to school. In fact, I remember my younger brother remained home, and I was angry that he was taking advantage of my sick father’s situation. After all, my brother was not sick. He should go to school along with me and my other two siblings. But he cheated my mother, or so I thought, and fooled her. While she knew this was my father’s last day of life, and kept my younger brother at home purposefully, that explanation never crossed my mind at the time. When we returned home around four o’ clock, there were no less than fifteen cars sprawled throughout my driveway, front lawn and parked in the street. I had never seen so many cars flooding a house’s façade. Every inch was covered with cars. I had no memory to compare this sight with. But. It hit me then, as quick as a gunshot. He’s dead. To this day, I don’t understand how I made the leap from father to dead father, but it was instantaneous. Maybe the idea of his immanent death rest is my subconscious, but that sight of those cars permitted the notion of death to barge immediately in. The second we got halfway down SW 32nd Terrace, the bend in the road quickly revealed my house and those cars, and I knew he was dead. I didn’t know the next step, or the emotions to stream or how to feel at all. Death was not part of me. But, I evolved. Death was part of me.

I felt comfortable with joking about death, jokes of the Holocaust, AIDS, cancer. These jokes and comfortability with death has made some people feel uncomfortable, but that was OK. They would learn from my wisdom, eventually.  My newly formed outer shell made me immune to the sensitivities of regular folk. I felt a special kinship with those who also experienced the death of a parent. We knew something that no one else knew, even if we could not articulate it. Death was in me, and I was proud of it. I was better. I could wear death on my shoulder like a war wound, whip it out when I desired a laugh, sympathy or just to continue an awkward conversation. Death is interesting, and I was better for owning it. It made me stronger, and more dominant. But my calm and security with death was/is odd to some.

Two thousand years ago, the average life expectancy was under thirty years of age. Death was common, and part of the vernacular. He who knew no death at all stages of life was impossible. We live in the first century where I can wear death proudly as an anomaly. But that also dissipates with time. Death is creeping up, trickling in, on my peers finally. They soon will wear her, not as a sign of pride as I did, but as one wears wrinkles and bad knees. It’s different. They will never experience it as I had it, but I’ll take what I can get. I’m excited that life’s tide is pulling back to reveal death’s shore. Soon you will be me too.

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