On Life and Death
A Visit From Death
Death came and knocked on a door last month. Everyone in the house was afraid. It was Death. Don’t ask them how they knew. They just knew.
Everyone was huddling together, unsure how to respond. “Do we open the door? Do we keep death waiting on the porch? Will he go away if we ignore the rapping on the door, pretending we’re not home or we don’t hear anything?” A million thoughts flashed through their mind but no one moved towards the door. Everybody just froze. Time seemed to stand still.
After a good deal of knocking, a little girl finally left the flock and walked towards the door. Time stood stiller still. Everybody no longer froze. They tensed.
The little girl reached the door and slowly turned the door knob. The door creaked as it opened and there stood Death. He took his time. Scanning the terrified faces around the room. Some, he found to his surprise, actually looked defiant. Angry.
As for the people inside the house, they never expected Death would look so… casual. No black long robe with huge hoodie. No scythe. No mortifying face. They never thought that Death would look like a 30ish year old man wearing a red checkered shirt half tucked to a pair of denim jeans. With a square jaw, a thin line of lips and piercing gaze, Death looked so… ordinary.
Even after seeing how ordinary Death looks, people are still afraid. Because anyone and anything can wear a face of normalcy and still appear menacing when it has a name. And this ordinary looking man happened to bear the name of Death.
Those who were afraid averted their gaze and those who were defiant chose not to utter a word because Death wields power to take one’s breath away for eternity. Everyone chose not to acknowledge death including the girl who opened the door.
Then Death extended his hand to the little girl (because she was nearest to him) and for fear of repercussion of a refusal, the girl took his hand. Death led her to the kitchen and there, they sat and had a conversation over coffee and a glass of milk (coffee for Death and milk for the little girl) while all the others stayed in the living room, too afraid and angry to hear what Death had to say. Too afraid to think that maybe Death had visited in a guise of an ordinary man because he had a valuable lesson to share (he didn’t want to frighten anyone). Too afraid because it is Death.
My mother had been gone for more than a month now and still, people find it awkward and uncomfortable when I mentioned her death in a conversation (I had to tell some people who are clueless about her passing). They didn’t say as much but their faces betrayed their feelings. The averted gaze, the awkward smile, the split-second pause before a respond.
Why is death such a taboo topic people seem to avoid at all cost?
Death, if given a chance, has a lot to teach if only we are willing to listen. Some people even go to a great length to make sure death is not mentioned. “Don’t say its name. It will follow you like a shadow”, they said.
Death doesn’t follow. It comes. Everyone has encounter at least if not more than one death in their life since he/she were young. I experienced my first contact with death at the age of 6 (roughly) as far as I can remember. My grandpa’s passing. I didn’t understand then, why many of my family members were crying. Why I never saw grandpa anymore.
Then as we grow up, we meet death again. Now with a little bit more understanding of life. We know why people cry. We make acquaintance with attachment and the sadness it brings upon the face of death and some of us, develop fear of death.
We see it as the end of us. We see it as a separation. We see it as a goodbye and therefore, we associate it with something bad when in fact, as a wise monk said in my mother’s wake, “Death is as much as a part of our life as birth.” We will come into acceptance and have no fear of death when we accept this simple fact of life’s duality.
Do we really think we will live forever? Why fear death?
It’s not death that we are really afraid of. It’s what we have done, what we could have done and what we haven’t done. It’s the thought of the things we will leave behind upon our departure. The legacy we create.
Everybody dies. We’ve seen this and we know this. Why should we be afraid of something natural? If we are afraid of death, why do we rejoice in birth that eventually leads to the very thing we are afraid of?