It's a dark subject, death, and it's spectre haunts us all. We are born, we live, and we die, and the beginning and the end are tied up one in the other.
These past few days have been occupied with thoughts of death. Not my own death specifically, but that of people around me. I won't be specific, but suffice to say that there has been an unusual lot of it about, and being a mortal being, as we all are, it has been in the back of my mind.
I wish I could sit here and write some soulful, stirring words about it, some romantic whimsy or a deeply philosophical view of it, but no matter the number of funerals I attend or the number of friends and family I lose I cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. The best I have been able to do is come to some sort of grips with it, in that it is going to happen whether I like it or not. It is the sentence that is pronounced when we are born, and it is the great equaliser.
Isn't it said, time and again, that it's not how you die but how you live your life that truly matters? Isn't it said that the only immortality lies in how long people remember your name, or how many people you have touched throughout your life? We live forever through our children, our friends, our family, and the footprints we leave in the gardens of other people's hearts.
Neil Gaiman once said, rather poetically, that Death is a pretty girl that he wants to meet, only once.
I would like to be able to meet death with strength and purpose. I'd like to be cheerful as an Irishman at a wake, laughing and drinking. I'd like to rend my beard and clothing like a Jew sitting shivah at a family member's services, to rid myself of the pain and the loss. I'd like to be able to bear it all ramrod straight and with a stiff upper lip, with as much pomp and circumstance as a British Army Colonel at the burial of a superior officer, but all I can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other, and hope that death finds me with open arms, secure in the knowledge that I did what I wanted to do, lived how I wanted to live, and died with dignity. I would think that that's all any of us could wish for.
I have attended too many funerals for being a young man. I have seen friends and family rendered immobile by untimely deaths, and have myself been driven to the brink of screaming uselessness by the deaths of those closest to me. I have seen it at a distance, have seen it up close and personal, and through the magic of television I have seen it wholesale, in numbers far too large to count. Death. It's the only thing in life that we can be certain of.
I may not be able to face you and say it in words, but I want you to know that I was with you, am with you, and will be with you.