165. Death

Of all the things I don’t know about, death is king. I’ve never died, and the people closest to me haven’t died, either. I’ve known people who have died, but of course, I immediately lost my ability to communicate with them, so knowing them didn’t bring me much closer to understanding death. And I’ve read lots of Russian Literature. The Russian writers of the nineteenth century wrote a lot about death. But it was all hearsay and speculation; as soon as they died, they stopped writing.
But people who are close to me eventually will die, and so will I. So will you. Children get curious about death when they’re very young, and though their pets may die, some of them, like me, don’t experience the death of people close to them until well beyond childhood. If a child’s father or mother dies, or someone else who has meant a lot in the child’s life, other children naturally tend to be supportive and sensitive. So do adults. You don’t often hear “Heard your dad croaked. Too bad.” Even children who haven’t yet learned the finer points of sensitivity know that “croaked” is not an acceptable synonym for “died” in this situation. They know they’re treading on sacred ground.
I’m speculating. Maybe by the time you read this article, I’ll have learned first-hand about the death of people closest to me. I hope not. Meanwhile, I have questions. Does there come a point when a person who has led a happy life wants to die? I know I have sometimes wanted to stop doing things that were fun, even though they didn’t stop being fun. I was ready to move on to other things that might also be fun. But do people ever feel that way about all of life? Of course, if you really believe in Heaven, that can make that sort of thinking a little more likely, but what about those of us who don’t? Do we ever feel as if our lives have come to a peaceful end, and that it’s time to die? One of my friends, who died when she was in her eighties, said, near the end of her life, “People always told me that when I was near the end of my life, I’d start believing in God. Well, I’m there, and I don’t, and I’m proud of it.”
Does there come a point when you want the people close to you to die, for their own good? A point when they’ve already decided that it’s time to die, feel fine about it, and you stop trying to change their minds? I’m asking you because you may know. Maybe you have more experience with death than I do. But in another way, you couldn’t have had any experience with it. I haven’t mentioned children much in this article, but death is The Great Equalizer. It isn’t something you learn about through direct experience. And yet somehow, like me, children ask questions, and hope they’ll get answers that will satisfy their curiosity, and maybe reassure them. Of all the articles I’ve ended, this is the hardest one to end. Such is life, I guess.

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