The Physics of Death

I want to tell you it will be all right.

There’s been a lot of bad news of late.  Friends and close acquaintances in dire straits.  A memorial service for a kid only a few years older than our boys.  Death seems to be hovering in the air around us, playing eeny-meeny-miney-mo with people we care about.  A cruel, arbitrary figure, a Shade with a mean streak.

We’ve reached middle age now and we have to expect losses.  Like the old Doors song goes:  no one here gets out alive.  But it’s not right when it’s kids who are afflicted and young mothers and devoted partners…blameless ones who shouldn’t be singled out for torment or earmarked for an early demise.  They deserve better.  That they should suffer is unfair and a universe that permits that to happen can’t possibly be caring or sentient or the slightest bit aware of our existence.  A cold, dead universe.  Endless and eternal and empty.

I know nothing of the physics of death.  I can’t tell you the weight of a human soul or confirm that such a thing even exists.  I’ve tried reading up on the science—the conversion of matter to energy and the possibility of alternate universes, hyper-realities—but, in the end, my intelligence and imagination just aren’t up to the task.

All I know is that I love you and these recent, grim reminders of mortality make me appreciate what we have and give thanks for every drawn breath.  These bedside vigils and funerals are rehearsals for a time that is bound to come and we lose one of ours.  That may sound selfish but it’s not.  Our grief is just as sincere and our sympathy for what those poor families must be enduring genuine and heartfelt.  We imagine what it’s like to be in their shoes and our souls quake.  When faced with such a horrifying spectacle, we avert our eyes.

To experience the death of a loved one is, to my mind, the ultimate test of faith.  Can your belief system withstand a loss so profound?  Can your theology and/or worldview accommodate an agony that rends your very being?  Can your God bear the heat of your anguish and rage?

We’ve been together a long time, you and I.  Not only in this lifetime but before that.  We’ve known each other and always recognize one another each time we meet.  As long as you are with me, I can survive anything.  I truly believe this.  Grief and despair may make me a shadow of my former self but as long as I am comforted by the knowledge of your existence, I will persist, I will struggle; against the odds, against the darkness, believing to my dying breath that being your lover and confidante ennobles me and gives me purpose, the will to go on.

You are all the proof I need.  There are terrible things afoot, a darkness creeping in from the edges.   Let’s treasure our time together, love, rather than allow fear to take from us all that is worth keeping and preserving.  We must refuse to allow mortal dread to defeat us and it is our shared strength that will save us.  In the face of death, affirm that we are alive and full of passion and joy and foolish dreams.  Confronted by the worst, we pledge to show a brave face, while clutching at each other for the companionship and comfort we know we will find there.

3 comments

  1. kendi

    This was beautifully written, thank you for sharing this with me.
    The eternal question perhaps, the meaning of suffering, … dare we open ourselves to the glory of love when we also open ourselves to the pain of potentially losing that love. The concusion of many after experiencing this once is to close oneself off rather than risk the pain of loss again.

    and yet…the glory of love, is this perhaps the meaning of life? To love and be loved? To know and be known? Is this life’s longing for itself?

    How lovely the comfort in your final paragraph, we all have the choice to love rather than fear..”We must refuse to allow mortal dread to defeat us and it is our shared strength that will save us. In the face of death, affirm that we are alive and full of passion and joy and foolish dreams. ” How wonderful to have that perfect someone to share this with.

    well done!

  2. Cliff Burns

    I really must tell Sherron before I address one of my blog posts to her…

    Heh heh.

    Thanks for the note and your words. In order to fully live our lives, we must deny ourselves nothing…even the knowledge of impending, inevitable loss. Cherish what you have, while you have it. Friends, family, a perfect sunset. None of us knows how long any of it will last. Our days numbered, finite; all the more reason not to waste a single moment.

  3. Kathy

    Beautifully expressed and an understanding which is fundamental to living life as fully as possible.

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