We are so unacquainted with death
We know him only in cold hallways
We meet him only in dim rooms
Or under fluorescent lights
His name is not spoken at weddings
We do not sing his songs
Even a funeral is a celebration of life
But this should not be so
Death is written into our genes
As much a part of us as our fingernails
Even this drumbeat in my chest keeps time
Marking the steps in my dance
Towards the only one who waits
With open arms.
The first line of this poem came to me while I was standing in a hospital. I looked down at the ugly tiled floors and squinted against the harsh lights and wondered at how we run from death. It's something we try not to think about; it's something we avoid speaking of unless absolutely necessary. While some cultures may have a more cordial relationship with death, North Americans definitely do not. The only time we allow ourselves to dwell on death is in hospitals, in graveyards, and on those deep summer nights when we surround ourselves with friends and dare to think, for a moment, about the incredibly fragile nature of life.
But death is a part of life. It's the other side of the coin. A corpse isn't something to be afraid of: it's the still, quiet conclusion of the story that began with a baby brought, red and crying, into the world. Every prologue needs an epilogue; every beginning needs an end. It's not scary: it's the way it's meant to be.
Just some thoughts I had today in a hospital.