Thursday, April 9, 2009
on death and dying (and maybe resurrection)
Warning: This post is mostly serious, and not really very funny at all. Sorry.
Late yesterday afternoon I fell into a bit of a funk, reflecting on the fragility of life, and the loss we feel when we someone we love dies. Yeah, I could have picked a better topic to think about. Win some, lose some.
Easter week is always bittersweet for me. Having grown up in a faithful Christian family, Easter was one of the high points of each year, with the added bonus of the ever-popular Easter Bunny-induced chocolate-feasting sugar rush.
Then my brother had to go and kill himself during Easter week about 12 years ago. At the time I found his subconscious timing very significant: I mean, if you hate your life and want a new one, what better time to make a change, right? Re-awakening, re-birth, resurrection... they all seem particularly possible during the first few weeks of spring.
I'm sure he didn't realize how much he would f*ck up Easter for the rest of us, though - that year, and in the years to follow. I remember that one of the funeral home visitations fell on Good Friday, and we had to postpone his actual funeral until Easter Monday.
He left this existence on a Wednesday afternoon, probably sometime between 4:30 and 5:30PM, when my parents found him. I'm not big on anniversaries (even missed my best friend's birthday this year - doh!), so I never notice when the actual anniversary of his death has gone by. But I vividly remember the events of that Easter week, and last night around 5PM I found myself thinking, It was on a day like today, on this particular day of the week, at this time of day, that my brother made the decision to finally give up, and take his own life.
And I felt sad.
My feelings were heightened by the knowledge that a little girl that one of my Twitter followers knew has died in the last day or two. TheBloggess normally writes bitingly funny stuff that makes me laugh out loud, but not yesterday.
Death puts the people who are left behind in a kind of weird limbo. That's what I remember the most about my brother's death. For about a week, I was shocked that life could go on - that other people out there were working and playing and laughing and swearing and generally just living their lives as if nothing of significance had happened. Mourning his death separated me from the rest of the world - sealed me in an insulated bubble where the only things that existed were pain, memories and (thankfully) semi-regular infusions of grace and caring from the people who loved me and my family.
So Easter week is bittersweet for me. I still love Easter Sunday, and singing Alleluias. But I'm also wary of the pain traps that may be lying in wait around the corner of each day once Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter) is past. And sometimes I feel like I'm being dragged reluctantly through the entire Easter experience - desperately wanting the assurance of renewed life, but unwilling to suffer through the accompanying reflections on death that it requires. And I feel for the young couple that has just lost their baby girl: They, too, will experience the special sadness of Easter every year, as my family does.
I've been listening to some recorded lectures by Clarissa Pinkola Estes - the well-known Jungian psychoanalyst and author of Women Who Run with the Wolves - this week. In one lecture Estes says that the wound is the only thing that brings light. She asks, "What good can come from allowing what is good and ready to die?" The wounds are doors, she insists - doors to the new life.
Open the door, I tell myself. Step through. David died; Madeline died. But the rest of us are still here, with more living to do...