That moment when the breath is gone
And souls released to who knows where,
But think about the ones still left behind,
Struggling through the daily grind.
The shock, the utter breathless pain
That drives the living to something near insane.
A woman that I work with lost her father last week and it has sparked off some really deep conversations in our department and among my own family members.
We were called into the office on Monday morning and told that she wouldn’t be in because there had been an accident and her father had died very suddenly. We all stood very quietly as we digested the news, each probably thinking about our own parents and how we would feel if we were in such an awful situation.
It’s the suddenness that bothers me and it’s led me to think about whether I would prefer to see someone die of an illness and be able to prepare for the inevitable; or to lose someone quickly and not have to see any suffering, but to conversely have to navigate that shock.
One of the team have spoken to her and she says that she feels like she is dreaming, like it’s not real. And that’s what those very sudden losses do to us. We very suddenly need to grapple with those thoughts about mortality and that is really uncomfortable for humans.
I am one of those people that have both a sick fascination with death, and also feel terrified of it. I feel like a child that knows it’s scary to stick their hand in the flame, but feels desperate to do it anyway. I want to reach out and touch death so that I can finally understand what it’s all about.
Faith helps, but it doesn’t take away all of the fear because it is faith; we can’t blindly believe something is going to be one way when we have no tangible truth. And that means that we don’t have a bloody clue and that’s terrifying.
Does death hurt? Do the lights just go out and that’s the end of everything? Do we get to meet up with old friends and family like it’s a big nightclub in the sky? Who knows? But one thing I do know is that I have spent a lot of time thinking about these questions this week.
3 thoughts on “sudden death”
I don’t know what it feels like to die, of course, but I do know that sudden death like that hits very hard. It happened in my family when my mother-in-law unexpectedly died of a stroke. It was several years ago now, but I remember it vividly. And the very suddenness of it was hard. It does make you wonder, doesn’t it, what happens next. I’m sorry to hear that happened in your school family.
It does make you feel so wobbly. I just don’t think that humans are wired in a way that makes it particularly easy to think about these big questions.
My father died from dementia, and it is hard to say which is harder, the sudden surprise or the lingering illness. I know his preference would have been a more rapid death, but my stepmother was in denial and kept trying to prolong his life.
What is different, since WWII, is that we are accustomed to a longer life and less frequent exposure to death. Covid has changed that for portions of the population, and may still be changing it for the rest.
Death has always been an integral part of life; most of us just live in denial. That’s why when it does come, it often seems like an awkward and ugly exit.
Chevalier’s novel, Falling Angels, purports to show a different perspective on death from the late VIctorian period. Whether the novel is historically accurate or not, I can’t say. However , it is a refreshingly different perspective.