The Year When I Accepted Death
As the end of the year of 2016 approaches I am thinking about a book I read a few months ago, Caitlin Doughty’s Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. It is a memoir of her experiences as a crematory employee. In her book Caitlin attempts to explain how the Western attitude towards death and dead bodies is warped, treating both as something morbid and unnatural. Death, in the present culture, is supposed to be hidden and sad, dead bodies are dirty and unclean. Caitlin is on a mission to expose the profit driven funeral industry and encourage people to be more involved in the preparations of the dead bodies for their final journeys.
Funeral industry tries to prevent us from seeing death for what it is. Bodies are beautified through embalming to hide all the normal effects of decomposition and cremation just hides all the traces of a dead body. We, the living, fail to embrace death as the most natural part of life, something that should be celebrated, something that we should participate in, when a loved one dies. Caitlin understands this and I was surprised how much I agreed with her as I was reading about all the interesting endeavors through her work at the crematory.
The end of 2016 invokes thoughts of death for me, not the morbid or terrifying sort that I should be afraid of, on the contrary, it invokes thoughts of natural cycle that I am a part of. I am thirty-six years old and this year I have begun to understand my own mortality. We lost many influential artists in 2016: David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Umberto Eco, the ones that affected me the most, were among the few. Facebook was buzzing, claiming that 2016 was a terrible year, full of death, not to mention political turmoil. But, I do not want to dwell on the politics today. I want to honor those who are no longer with us. I want to recognize that those who’ve left us did so, naturally, in their own way, following their own assigned cycle.
I am neither sad nor angry. This year I am grateful for the understanding that xdeath is a part of us and it is not scary or unexpected. For a long time I was afraid of dying. I faced death several times during the war in Bosnia and it terrified me. I tried to escape it, praying to God to spare me, only to realize this year that no amount of prayer can stop the inevitable cycle. I have also come to a conclusion that life, in the philosophical sense, is not a fair game. It takes and gives through a mathematical probability, randomly. It leaves us bare to chance. Death is the same, accidental, normal and natural. It is all around us, although we try to mask it, hide it, prevent it.
2016 was marked for me as a year when I finally started to breath. I accepted that I couldn’t influence everything. I could abide by the morality laws, not the religious ones, but the philosophical ones and influence the world around me, offering my experiences and thoughts to my friends, offering my words to the online audience. I could accept death for what it was, a normal process, such as birth. This year I finally understood that I had reached the age where I would inevitable know more and more people who would die, famous or non-famous because as I grow older, they get older too. This is a normal process. 2016 was not an unusual year, it did not bring more death, and it was not unfair. The fact is that the Facebook community grew older. More and more people are able to read the news and receive the information and we are more aware that we are loosing people. 2017 will be the same and I am welcoming it, with open arms.
As a human being I am hopeful that my life will continue to progress as it should, hurling me towards the old age and all that comes with it. If for any reason I stand a chance to disappear sooner, I will not fret, but accept the natural course of life and be glad that I was here, a witness of the greatness in laughter of my children, beautiful food, music and books and the love of my family. Do not despair, time moves on, sometimes not as fast as we would like, but still, coursing through our veins and our children’s veins, bringing life, death and all that comes in between; Time as a lucid and rational witness of the natural cycle that continues without our influence or interference.
Happy new 2017 year to all of you. I wish you acceptance, humility, dignity, normality and a low probability that something will go off course that you planned for yourself. And as Caitlin said in Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: “Death might appear to destroy the meaning in our lives, but in fact it is the very source of our creativity. As Kafka said, “The meaning of life is that it ends.” Death is the engine that keeps us running, giving us the motivation to achieve, learn, love, and create.”