Chapter 15 : Death Rides a Pale Horse
January 11, 1999

Death is such an odd thing. It raises fear in people. It embodies the despair that people deal with every day. Itís is a dark cloud that wraps those who touch it in its blanket, so everyone it traps can snuggle in close together and propagate the darkness that overcomes them.

Yes, that is a bleak picture, isnít it?

I have been touched by death. It has become a familiar friend. Not too close, but close enough.

What strikes me most, though, is the sorrow that surrounds death. I can understand it, of course, but doesnít it get a bit self-serving? Aside from a few religious groups, we seem to celebrate death in self pity. Who do we feel sorry for? Is it for the person who dies, or is it for ourselves?

Think about it, death also is surrounded by anger. Cries of "How could you do this to me?" "What am I supposed to do now?"

Mourning is billed as respect for the one who died. Grieving for their passing. But is it to honor their memory, or to lament their passing? And if it is to lament their passing, isnít that simply saying that you are upset about how it affects you, and your life?

Ok, I can understand the need for some self-serving pity. Man is a self-involved creature.

People need to deal with death. They need to find a way for it to make sense in their lives. "Why?" they ask. We are given this perception that each of us will continue to live on. Religions propagate this myth through tales of re-incarnation, and Lazarus rising from the dead. We are devastated when someone older dies - a father, a mother, a grandparent.

Is it self-pity? We loose an anchor. A constant in our lives. I would be hard pressed to say that you arenít deserving of that self-pity. And I think itís healthy, that in order to re-adjust yourself and your place in the world, you need to have that reaction, a catharsis.

What I take issue with is it being masked as reverence for the dead. Admit that youíre sad because you no longer will be the object of that personís love and attention. But admit that the truth is everyone dies. Think about what that person accomplished while they were alive.

So often people get lost in their own self pity that they fail to celebrate and make sure that recognition is given for what someone did during their life. What if? What if? Fuck the what if.

The what if doesnít exist. What does exist is your memories. The memories that hold that person alive, still, as long as you dare to remember. Remember with joy. Remember with sorrow. Remember the good, and the bad times. But donít let them die in you, for you are who is keeping them alive.

Death has grasped at me. It has greeted me on the telephone late at night, to tell me it took my dog. It has pulled me into sobriety after a night out on the town, with news of Dougís death and to taunt me with the knowledge I could not attend his funeral. It has reduced me to tears, as I saw a man I had just been talking to laying on the ground before me, leaving me to comfort his girlfriend. It has left me unfazed but partially numb, when the voice on the phone told me my grandfather was dead. It has angered me when it played with my grandmother like a marionette with all itís strings cut but one. It has reduced me to a trembling ball as I watched the two foot coffin they use for infants carried into the church.

Yes, Death has grasped at me. And I am afraid. I am afraid I have not yet given what I can, I have not accomplished those things I mean myself to. But do not mourn me. Celebrate me. Burn me in a bonfire on the open sea drinking Bass, surfing glassy tubes, and making fun of my rambling stories. Help me taunt death. For it is not my friend.

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