A phrase I often use, in various situations, is “Life Gets In the Way”. We all try to achieve certain things, keep up with good habits, stay in touch with friends and family, but the everyday wheels of the machine of life do tend to get in the way. We let that flow direct our moves and take over our choices. Things need to get done after all. Life moves on. Unless of course, it doesn’t. If we cannot stall our daily life machine enough to step away from the factory of events, there is another who has the power to do so, for all of eternity: Death.
Death stops life. That may be obvious, but it not only stops it for the chosen one she comes to collect, Death also stops the lives of everyone around said person. It cannot be helped. Death gets in the way.
Although I am alive and well, I feel safe in stating that death is a horrible inconvenience to the person for whom life is ending, at least in most cases. I suppose there are some in pain, some in agony, some old and tired who welcome death. But there are others who are simply moving along happily in the middle of their life, shocked to find out that it is in fact, not the middle but rather, the end. My mother once said that an early death must be like losing a book in the middle of reading it or walking out during the middle of a movie. How did it end? Unfortunately, if Death chooses you before an old age, the real question can only be “how could it have ended.” This may be something we can all ask one day if life isn’t what we expected, but at least the persons who have reached old age had a go at it. They can ask “what could I have done differently” instead of just “what were all the moments and chances taken from me”.
There are of course many other thoughts consuming the person Death comes to claim. And depending on the nature of the death the amount of time to spend on these thoughts varies. The heaviness of reality sets in at different paces for each person I suppose. I’d imagine no amount of time could honestly prepare one for the visit from Death. What did Tom Waits say? “Even Jesus wanted just a little more time when he was walking Spanish down the hall.” Before you know it, Death leaves with her guest.
“For the first time in my life I understood the meaning of the word ‘never’. And it’s really awful. You say the word a hundred times a day but you don’t really know what you’re saying until you’re faced with a real ‘never again’.”
― Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog
It is the “never” that death causes which inconveniences the lives of the living left behind. There is no way to move on at a normal pace when we are consumed with this thought. No amount of religion, spiritual belief, science or imagination will eliminate the pain that comes after such a loss. Death may come peacefully for some and violent for others, but for the living left behind she always leaves the chaos and devastation of grief.
Eventually we have to get back to our factory, our machine, our lives. We either heal, or we learn to work with a handicap of sorts. We all do so in our separate ways. This change we undergo is sometimes unbearable.
Yet, although grief may be caused by death, it is most certainly a partner of love. Without love, we would not be affected by death’s infection of emptiness. Or what feels like emptiness. We are not actually empty because that love is not taken. Love is what heals us. The love of those suffering alongside us and even more so the love of the one we have lost. The torment of grief left behind by death is actually the metamorphosis of love. The love truly does go on albeit in a different manner. Therefore the power to stop life and its factory as it were, is love. Without love, Death could come and go and no one would be affected. Love is the most powerful of all in this story, in anyone’s story. Death cannot stop it, it can only morph it into something new. It continues on in its new form beyond a death. Death is simply an inconvenience for us to bear as we host love’s transfiguration.
– for Beth.