When we are young we don’t think about death. We and those around us are immortal, especially our close family members. In the past, people were exposed to death quite frequently, not through the media, but through their own life experience. Medicine was in its infancy, war, disease, and even public punishments, were part of our ancestors daily lives.
Nowadays, mainly in the western world, death is exotic. We cannot get enough. The media bombard us with gory images, details of tragic events, feed our need to be in contact with death. It is a constant reminder of our own mortality, how we feel about it and we deal with it.
One can feel obliged to look at photographs that record great
cruelties and crimes. One should feel obliged to think about what it
means to look at them, about the capacity actually to assimilate what
they show. Not all reactions to these pictures are under the
supervision of reason and conscience.
Inevitably, as you reach a certain age, those around you start to fall like flies. Some people experience this much earlier in life, but when you get to your 30s, the natural order of things starts to take over. Grandparents, older siblings and, most shockingly, your friends will start dying. It is particularly disturbing, and enlightening at the same time, when someone your age dies. Hey that could be have been me! Reality slaps you in the face. Why have you not done this or that? What are you afraid of? Why haven’t you lived the way you wanted? You will die anyway. Any day.
Some people experience an epiphany when they suffer a tragic accident or are victims of a deadly disease and manage to survive. More often than not, these people confess that such overwhelming encounters with death are the best thing that ever happened to them – it made them feel alive, like never before.
Death its what makes us live. We go through our entire lives denying it, obsessed about it and mainly fearing it. But there is nothing more enlightening than experiencing the death of others to makes us realise how and why we are not living. Something happens when we realise that, sooner or later, we will join them. All of a sudden we focus on what really matters in our lives. We think about us as individuals and how we have been living our lives – what if I die right now? And those we really care for and how we would feel if they departed – where there things left to say? things left to do?
If death is not motivation for living our lives, I don’t know what is.