Death appears to be a growing presence in my life of late. One of my uncles, who lives far away from the rest of my family, was diagnosed with cancer early this year, and though he is fighting, he will likely die within a few years. The priest who was my pastor for much of my growing up years died the week before Mother’s Day. Shortly after, I discovered the artist of a webcomic I enjoy had experienced a similar loss at around the same time. In another webcomic I read, the main character’s grandfather just died this week. One of our pet mice died Wednesday.
Obviously, these various experiences are hardly all equal, and two of them aren’t even things that happened to me. In a weird way, though, the death of that fat little mouse seems more real than the death of my old priest. He had a beautiful funeral, probably in the old Roman Rite, which I did not attend, mostly because I no longer live near my parents. Though I heard about the services, I wasn’t there and I don’t think I saw any pictures, so it simply doesn’t seem real. On the other hand, the mouse’s little body was dumped unceremoniously in the trash, her dirty bedding poured on top, and the bag taken straight to the dumpster. I was the one who found the body, so her death seems very real. I’ll never see her running around on her wheel again, though we might someday have a pet mouse who looks a lot like her. On an intellectual level, I know I’ll never see Father again, either, but I didn’t really expect to, anyway; I’ve been avoiding church because I can’t believe anymore. I feel I should be grieving for him, but I find myself simply… not. I feel sadness about the mouse, but I also feel like her death doesn’t warrant grief; she was just a mouse.
I brought up the comic artist who lost his youth pastor because I so appreciated one of the comments on the tumblr post he made about it. “You don’t have to believe in stuff to believe in people.” That statement strikes me as one of the truest things I have ever read, one of the truest thoughts I have ever encountered. Considering my numbness to the death of that priest, Willis’ loss certainly hit him much harder, but while it is always sad that such things happen, it helped me to read his post and the comments on it.
I brought up the other comic because it brought tears to my eyes. The premise of the comic is that there is a girl who befriends Death, and when he only informs her that her grandfather died after the fact, she tells him… well, go read yesterday’s strip!
Have you finished?
I have not lost a grandfather, but I have lost a great deal of friends, sometimes for simply drifting apart, sometimes for very good reasons, sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently (so far). That strip, therefore, speaks to me, and it is heartbreaking.
In fact, I’ve never lost a human to death whom I was really close to. I’m unsure how to react around death, as I think I’ve expressed. I’ve lost lots of pets to death, and have cried over some of them, but pets just seem more replaceable than humans. That’s not true, of course, but our relationships to our pets is always about the same, while our relationships to different people are extremely varied, including aunt, grandparent, mentor, child, sibling, and friend.
Before my deconversion, I would have prayed for the souls of those who died, in case they made it to Purgatory. Now, I see death as permanent, or more accurately, I don’t see how it could be anything but.
Loss, permanent or temporary, is a miserable thing. Even when pushing someone away is the best thing for him or you, it still hurts, in my experience.
I’m not sure anyone handles loss well. I’m quite sure I don’t.
Just to lighten the mood a bit, I think I might get a hamster as our next pet, because look how cute they are: