Monday, September 10, 2007

On Death

Luciano Pavarotti died last week. He was in the news one day, suggesting that he was seriously ill, and the next day, we heard of his death. Interesting site note: I found a site that actually has a database that shows whether an actor, a politician, or an economist (how can you tell with economists?) or several other categories is dead. You can browse by category, search by date of death, by cause of death, and other ways. Sort of cool. Oh, a long side note.

Two people I have had emails from in the last week have lost their fathers recently (in the last month). Oh, and one of my friends lost a grandparent this week as well, so I have been thinking about them, praying for them.

A few years ago, there was a movie that I did not see that was about relationships. I can't remember who was in the movie, its title, or even when it came out. Early dementia, perhaps? Anyway, there was a quote from the movie that I wanted to use, and because I can't find it, I can't quote it. It was something like, "People get married because they need witnesses to their lives."

Oh, here is the quote from Shall We Dance (released in 2004, perhaps I blocked out the movie because of Richard Gere1, and yes, I did see the movie):

We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet... I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things... all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness'."

Well, I don't know if I believe this about marriage – that the overarching reason to get married is that we need a witness to our lives. If that were the case, we could purchase video recorders and save us the hassle of training men. What I do know is that our parents hold some of the keys to our memories. They are the ones who tell us when we took our first steps, who Uncle Charlie is related to, where the pink-flowered china came from, all sorts of things. And when a parent dies, you loose some of that. When you lose both parents, you lose even more memories.

I want to be able to talk about this with an air of authority. I want to be able to say things that would clarify the emotions one feels when a parent dies, when a grandparent dies.

But I can't do that. All I can say is "I am sorry for your loss." And perhaps, that is all that needs to be said.

1I really don't like Richard Gere. Not sure why, but I get the willies when I see him.


mal said...

what was the quote? "One death is a tragedy, 1 million deaths are a statistic"?

We are 3 dimensional creatures. It is hard for us to see and appreciate the march of the species through the generations.

All that impersonal stuff said, I firmly believe no one should die alone. I have sat and watched the passage on several occasions. It is possibly the most personal thing I have ever done for anyone.

Prata said...

4 Dimensional (at the very least)....we exist in time, we just can't manipulate it. There is also quantum mechanics at work within our being. So 3 dimensional is a hair flat. If you're a spiritual person (that intangible but certainly existent thing) then 3 dimensions doesn't do the human condition justice and I'd question the relative strength of conviction in any given human being that skips over that.

It's always interesting when people bring up the discussion of death. There are so many view points. Some people are afraid of it, but why? Some people accept it as a fact and are resigned for its coming, but why? Some people are indifferent, but why? I think I want to die alone. I haven't given it much thought; however, I'll form an opinion on it later.

Leesa said...

mal: I have heard that people are afraid to die alone. So your witness may have comforted people.

prata: The only thing that terrifies me about death would be to drown, really. My heart beats faster just thinking about it. I used to fear death when I was growing up, mostly because no one I knew actually died. Now that I am older, when the time comes, I can accept death. Really.

~Deb said...

Sometimes saying nothing at all is best. Plattitudes never sat well with me, even though they were meant in good faith.

Marrying someone merely for a witness doesn't really settle in with me either. For me, it's growing old with someone. If nobody knows me after I die, then so be it. Life on earth isn't what matters to me, it's the afterlife that I feel is more important- although I am speaking about my own life of course.

If anything, our blogs will continue our legend, Leesa!

Hope you're doing well! I enjoyed reading this particular post!

Anonymous Boxer said...

That is truly, all that needs to be said.

Leesa said...

~deb: I have heard some Christians say, "So-and-so is in a better place." Sometimes that is exactly the wrong thing to say. I always say, "sorry for your loss." I don't want to say anything that would sound like, "Been there, done that" or "things will get better." Certainly not, "so, how much money did she leave you?"

boxer: thanks, sweetie.

Pyth0s said...

I got married because I was IN love. I don't give a lesser crap if anyone remembers me when I pass, or for anyone to witness my exsistance. I am quite happy with the memories I carry with me about the life I've lived so far. When I pass away they will pass away with me. And only the ones who were part of those memories will be left to carry these with them.

By the way, I spent an evening with Richard Gere back in the early 90's while he was filming Interstate. He is quite an amazing person, a very deep philantrapist with many amazing stories of places that barely anyone has ever stepped foot that I know of. That eveing memory will come to my grave as well :)



kathi said...

I know what you mean. When my mom died, my sister-in-law asked me "what does it feel like? I'm so close to my mom, I can't imagine her dying". I thought I was gonna hit her, but tried to convince myself she was just an idiot and at a loss of what to say instead of being insensitive.

I just say I'm sorry, which I am.

Leesa said...

pyth0s: glad to hear that about Mr. Gere.

kathi: it takes restraint not to hit in that circumstance.

RWA said...

Sometimes "I'm sorry for your loss" is all that needs to be said - in my opinion.

I'm not even going to touch that comment about "training men."

Advizor said...

I agree that "I am sorry for your loss" is about as good as you can hope for, but the next line, should be a sincere offer of service for the family.

- Where can I pick up your laundry for you
- Can I baby-sit your kids tomorrow so you can make arrangements?
- I'm bringing you dinner tomorrow, do you like chicken or fish?

Dying is a lot of work and the survivors are usually overwhelmed with dealing with funerals, insurance, bills, benefits etc., and this lasts months. Call them 2 weeks after the passing and offer to help them again.

Older people needs rides if their spouse was the driver. Young moms need a break from the kids. Dads need friends that do more than buy them beer on bowling night.

Death is loss, and that's something we all need help with.

I dealt with my father-in-laws passing here...

Leesa said...

rwa: ooppps. Did I say, "training men."

advizor: oh, and I forgot about helping out. You know, sometimes checking in at five weeks is a good idea. That's about the time that the phone calls stop from most people.