Wednesday, July 18, 2012

the way i see it: life is too short.

Update, Friday 07/20: Will update blog with thoughts on Aurora, CO massacre later.

"The art of losing isn't hard to master."

In losing something, there is the likelihood we will forget we lost it in a month or two. In losing someone, we never really forget.

Death is tricky because we don't like thinking about it. It's such an inevitable and natural part of living--if you're alive, you'll someday be dead--but it feels unnatural to think about it, to talk about it. Dying is something that happens in movies and in novels. Dying happens to other people...not to us, not to people we know and love.

I remember the first funeral I went to. It was for my great aunt, and I was just a child. I couldn't fully comprehend it. Sure, I'd been aware of death when Grandpa Chak died, but I hadn't gone to the funeral. I didn't see the coffin or the gravesite. It wasn't really real. He was there one day, then he wasn't. With my great aunt, I hadn't known her too well, so even the part of my life of knowing she'd been "there" wasn't real.

When a celebrity or public figure passes, we mourn too. And isn't the same, is it? I was trying to understand the other week why Nora Ephron's death struck me so hard, and it manifested itself in this blog post. But then death came closer in six degrees of separation, and now it is all I think about because I know--I know--it will come soon to more people I love.

Too soon, too soon. God, life is short, isn't it? And it makes you think of all of the things you should have said, of all of the people you shouldn't have pushed away. It makes you recall the times you said you'd like to talk, but never followed through because you didn't fight for it, you didn't try hard enough. "That person will be there tomorrow." Until they're not.

It makes you think of all of the lost friendships and the stubborn rejections of faith and friendships because you were too proud, too hurt to admit you needed someone. It makes me think of all of that and more.

And it makes me think, especially now, about this: there are people you will fight with and people you will push away. There are some you'll get angry with and some you'll hold at arm's length. Be careful when you do, because in a second, in an instance, you could lose them. 

Joan Didion got it right: "Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends."


  1. I haven't experienced "it" happening to someone I love either. Watching the sheer numbers of people that are around or have been around me pass away over time gets me thinking about when that day will come and WHO could it be? It sounds morbid, but it has helped me come to terms with what I believe happens after death (I'm an atheist) and how I will and how others do handle it. We're lucky our losses have not been truly real yet, giving us the time to understand ourselves and the world a little bit better before tragedy hits.

  2. I took a class on death and the afterlife last semester, and there has been a lot of commentary on social attitudes toward death- particularly in recent times, in which death has become a forbidden topic (although in some ways trends are changing). We avoid the topic to the point of denial, while historically in many societies death was ever-present. Art, music, and poetry addressed it in ways varying from the sublime to the grotesquely carnal. And these works point to everyday life that was permeated with death- as a physical and in some cases a spiritual reality, not just a media obituary. That moment when you see life leaving a being's eyes... that quick transition- it is amazing that so much can change in so little time. And what a lesson we can learn from that. When I was a teenager and my horse Topper died suddenly, those naively casual words "oh I'll brush you tomorrow, I've got to go" echoed in my head for years.