In life we are in death – around us the world shatters as Syria explodes into violence. Children and innocents die, casually as if their lives were nothing. War is like this. War is terrible, yet it continues apace. We have learnt nothing from the two major conflicts of last century – men still make war, innocent people die and lives are never the same again.
In the modern age, in the West, death is an infrequent visitor and hence we are less used to her tainted reach, her ghostly pall as she hovers nearby. In earlier times when disease stalked the many death was often, never a friend but not the stranger she is to most of us today.
In the last month three people I know have died. Only one was of any real age and his passing was much mourned by his family and many friends. Two others succumbed to cancer, the most deadly of visitors. They were only slightly older than me: one a dear friend & colleague – a lady of effrontery and wit, full of energy and plans, very much alive. I struggle to imagine the world without her. Scarily she succumbed to the cancer I left behind a few years ago. I feel the hand of death hovering nearby – there but for the Grace of…
And today as well, a young colleague mourns his friend who went to bed and didn’t get up again. She was twenty-two. He cannot comprehend this. How can this happen? How can someone so alive, so young, with so much still ahead of them, be gone? How do you explain this, make sense of it?
In ten days time my lost girl would have been eighteen. I wonder from time to time what she would have been like – how like her sisters would she have been? How different would our lives have been has she lived?
Those left behind have a duty to the dead. We must mourn them, honour them as they pass. But once the rawness is smoothed over, we must not forget them. We must keep them in our lives, through our memories, our talking of them, our remembering them, even when it hurts – even when their empty space remains so large. So at Christmas, at birthdays, we should remember their special place in our lives and honour their being in this world no matter how short or how long a time we have them.
Life is a precious thing, a fragile thing. We ought to value it more than we do. If the untimely passing of a loved one can do this then their death has helped us to live a little better every day.
RIP: Kate Buckeridge, Bill Coburn, Jim Mullens and Grace. (Images courtesy Google Images)