Thoughts on Death

This last week has been a bit of a whirlwind, so I’m going to make a brief departure from my regular lighthearted post – the first post that won’t be tagged with “humor.” It’s been hard to think about what to write because we don’t talk about sad things here! One thing I’ve liked about my blog format is that if I have a boring week it doesn’t matter, I’ll just talk about something that happened 15 years ago and no one will know the difference! But then something terrible happens and you want to write about it. You want to try to make sense of the mania in your head. And that’s exactly the moment when words lose their meaning. When there’s no language to describe the kind of loss someone is going through. Platitudes lose their meaning and suddenly I hate every Hallmark card ever written.

Sorry for your loss? With deepest sympathy? Heartfelt condolences?

I can’t understand the people who buy these cards. I felt like every single “deepest sympathy” card I read insulted the grief for the person I was buying it for. There was so many of them all saying the same thing without saying anything at all. How does Hallmark know what it’s like to be made a widow at the age of 29? How did they decide that white flowers are best at conveying I’m sorry you lost everything with a single phone call? That a sky blue is best for font color for saying Nothing will ever be the same again?

I feel sick and angry and, if I’m being honest, vulnerable. The horrible realization that if it happened to her it could happen to me, while at the same time feeling guilty because it didn’t. Because you can hug her and go back to your spouse. I try to comfort myself by looking around and see all the old people. They’re everywhere! People live to be old all the time! It’s an epidemic, this turning old. The government has to change its programs because too many people live to be old every day! This is what I try to tell myself.

Everybody believes they are the exception to the rule. That I will never get cancer. I will never crash my car. I will never die. How could I die? I am so solidly here. But everyone also knows, no one else is saved from this exception. We all know everyone else can die at any moment even while we are convinced that we ourselves never could. I can almost convince myself that if someone is just in my presence my exception will protect them. “Don’t worry,” I’ll tell them, “these death things never happen to me. I’ve had, oh, 50 close calls, but I always walk away.” But you grip their arm a little tighter anyway because the obituaries column always stays full. As one last precaution, you make them promise that they will never die and try to feel better when they say, “I won’t.”

“You get what anybody gets – you get a lifetime.”

-Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes

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31 Responses to Thoughts on Death

  1. I’m sorry, Miss Peas. Death is always gutting, especially when it takes someone unexpectedly.

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  2. Tracy P says:

    This will be my first comment here although i have been a long time fan and supporter. Today, is my husbands birthday and he left us approx. 7 years ago when our son was 2 years old. I share your feeling for hallmark and the greeting card companies stupidity… what ever has happened in your life to bring about this post, I am truly remorseful for you as someone who has been there.. (i’m actually just turning 29 now.) Here’s to better days…

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    • Rae says:

      Thanks for the kind comment, and I’m so sorry for your loss. Seeing a friend go through this truly terrible and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

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  3. Platitudes do suddenly become meaningless. None of us know the proper (is there such a thing) words to say when someone loses a loved one so young. In fact, as I sit here, I struggle to know what to write. I think it’s instinct to want to offer comfort, to soothe someone when they are hurting, but there are no mere words that can heal a broken heart.

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  4. Chatter Master says:

    I’ve recently watched a family member suffer a terrible loss. I knew there was nothing I could say to make it “better”. But I wanted to anyway. But I can’t. Sometimes as “people” I guess all we can do is suffer in not knowing how to comfort, hoping our suffering for them is helping….

    But we know it doesn’t. This was an extremely heart felt post.

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  5. vandysnape says:

    I am so sorry for what ever grief that you are in. When my cousin died last year, I was in so much shock and pain. It all happened in a flash. Even now when I think about it, I still can’t comprehend the death. As ‘becomingcliche’ says no words can console a person but I sincerely hope you recover from the grief soon.

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  6. There was a time when I first started following your posts that I told you I’d be willing to be your friend. I stand true in my words. My heart stands with empathy, instead of sympathy. I can say “I know how you feel” and be completely honest about it. I have love for you whether or not I know you outside of blogs. I’m sad that you feel sad. I hope the loved one lost finds peace, along with all who grieve over the passing. Even though I’d be the one who’d sit there next to you silently, there will always be people that care, no matter how much of a stranger they are. Much love and well wishes. – Alissa

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  7. Kathy says:

    My father died at 29, leaving my mother a widow with 2 little girls. There are no words, ever. 51 years later my mother still can not talk about his death, his life she shares, his life is what makes us all smile.

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  8. Go Jules Go says:

    I am so sorry your friend lost her husband at only 29. That is absolutely tragic – and you’re right, those cards do feel like an insult compared to the depth of grief you/they feel!

    I’m really glad you wrote and shared this post. In November, I struggled with the same decision (I also ultimately decided to write my only serious post about the loss of a loved one). My thoughts are with you and your friend!

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  9. Smaktakula says:

    I’m so sorry for your friend. I couldn’t begin to know her pain, but my mother could have. She was widowed at twenty-five.
    It’s funny ( but not funny ha ha by any means), but my post today is also an uncharictaristically serious one about an untimely death. Life goes by too quickly.

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  10. There’s a quote from a movie I saw recently that I think of every now and then. It can’t take away any pain at all – but it may help lighten the load a little. From the book (and movie) The Best Marigold Hotel – “Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, then it’s not the end.”
    Sending positive thoughts.

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    • maisa798 says:

      that’s a quote I’ve used on myself many times after an experience like this..4 years later and I still need to hear it, but I’ll attest that it does do a little something, even if just for the moment. Sincerely hoping that anyone who reads it finds the same reprieve

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  11. You’ve made us all laugh so many times, you are certainly allowed a personal, heartfelt post like this. Sorry you are grieving… and prayers to your friend and her family. As has been said a million times there really are no words that are suitable or adequate in times like these. Thank you for sharing and I wish you strength and peace…

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  12. Michelle Gillies says:

    These are the thoughts that keep me awake at night. I have had a lot of death in my lifetime, parents, siblings, friends, some young and some older. It is always different and reactions are always different. There are no words that are “right” for these times. There is nothing that makes it better. When one sister was left with a 2 year old and a 4 year old at the age of 24 to raise on her own I often wondered how she got out of bed in the morning. Somehow, she did. When another sister buried her only son before he was 30 I wondered how she got out of bed in the morning. Somehow, she did. These are the thoughts that keep me awake at night.

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  13. Anne Schilde says:

    I used to draw a cartoons. Nothing as funny or as endearing as yours, mostly relegated to restaurant napkins, or little one-offs I did for friends. I did one that was just one character crying on the other’s shoulder. The permanence of the tears really helped. No one says you have to publish it, but your friend would probably like it a lot better than any stupid Hallmark card.

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  14. W. R. Woolf says:

    This is a very touching post.

    One of my friends lost his mother when we were eighteen. I didn’t know what to say or how to act. Then my mother got cancer and I was so afraid. Luckily, she pulled through after a year in the hospital. Even though I almost lost her, I still don’t know what to tell people when they loose someone close to them.

    But believe me when I say, I really am sorry. For every person who looses a parent, a spouse or a friend.

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    • Rae says:

      My mom also had cancer when I was young. It was really terrifying, especially since one of my best friend’s moms had just died of cancer. I think honestly the best you can do is just be there for someone, it’s just frustrating that you can’t do something more.

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  15. iimpp says:

    I’ve been through a lot of death; death from diseases, death from accidents, death from violence, and all the consequences of them. And I’m only 23. I never refuse that it may happen to my family too….No, it already happened. I know someday it’ll come and I’ve tried to be prepared. But somehow I just cannot make it.
    I know those things can happen to me too. I’ve passed through a lot of medical processes. I feel vulnerable but it’s ok. Human is vulnerable. We are not special. It just happens. I was sorrow for a long time but then, someone told me we had to live with the present or we’ll never find peace. That’s true. That’s what people do when it’s time for tragic. Live with the present and what we’ve got now, not what we used to have or will have. Do not be imaginative at this time. We have to know our emotion, know how we feel and just deal with it. That’s what I’ve tried to do for all these years and it keeps me alive.
    Well, I may talk some crap. Sorry. I never tell my thought to anyone because my imagination tells me that no one wants to hear. But I just want to say it.

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  16. knotrune says:

    There is nothing to be said, words are inadequate in the face of grief. But what is of value is just being there for your friend. People underestimate the value of that. Just to sit quietly with her, hug if needed, talk if she wants to, but allow the silence too. And also sticking around for the long haul. Too many people only offer support up until the funeral, when it’s after that the reality of permanent loss really sinks in, as the shock wears off. And because nobody knows what to say and it makes everyone feel uncomfortable, lots of people just keep away, which makes things worse of course. Just be there, so she knows she’s not all alone.

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  17. audrey says:

    All too familiar with that ‘phone call’ that changes your life, completely throws everything in the air to land where it will. Thank you for sharing, because actually talking, remembering and processing are way better than those dumb cards. My Dad told me, when something like this happened three years ago, “Remember to process. And eat. Don’t forget to eat.” It’s simple, but Dad’s are always right. Take care of yourself, and laugh when you can. xo, audrey

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  18. Elyse says:

    My heart is sad for you and your friend and the loss. Like many others, I don’t know what else to say, which, I think is true of most folks, and why there are cards like that. Me, I buy the blank ones, with flowers. And try to find words. This morning, I can’t, except to say I am so sorry for this sadness.

    Like

  19. westonomy says:

    I will not bitch about getting old ever again. I’m glad you posted this. May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe.

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  20. When I was young, I moved a lot. I’m not talking cities or even states. I mean countries. Every night I would cry for home, but there was always that sliver of hope, telling me, “You can always come back. It will always be there.” But even as I returned years later, I always found that the land that I had loved changed. It was not the land I had grown up in, and it never will be again. I have never felt the loss of a person. I could never imagine that degree of loss; the agony, the tears shed. All I can do is try to relate. You can always go back to the person; their footprints forever trapped in that old picture or their remains in a grave. But it will never be the same. All you have are your memories. I hope that you can be with the person that needs you the most, and treasure those memories. That way, you can celebrate the person’s life and the person that they used to be. It will mean more than any stupid Hallmark card.

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  21. asoulwalker says:

    Death, like a plague
    or a gentle visitor
    is violent to the heart
    And the world, that bastard of a world
    Just keeps turning
    As if things were just the same
    And when the questions come
    The one’s we don’t know to answer
    Then we begin to see
    And so let us not lose hope.

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  22. There are no perfect words that would bring meaning. The meaning comes from being a friend and showing your presence when you’re needed. The comments that I really dislike are “Is there anything I could do?” If you need to ask you have no concept of what it takes to cary on without the loved one.

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  23. shortcutting says:

    I watched the film 500 Days of Summer yesterday, and while it is a comedy, there is a part where Tom (the protagonist, who writes greetings cards for a living) has a rant about how greetings cards are effectively lies which I think has an element of serious truth in it: people should try to express their own feelings, no matter how hard it is, rather than just using someone else’s words, which can also be purchased by a hundred other people and don’t really mean anything at all. I hope things start looking up for you soon.

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