There have been a lot of deaths in my life.
There has been a lot of death in my life.
People I don’t know — disasters, political and natural ones (though I suppose some could argue political disasters ARE natural), people I do know, people who have been integral parts of parts of my life.
People who have comprised the important, shining details of my life.
Perhaps it is these experiences that makes me so accustomed to the idea of death. Of the end of existence. I know it is these experiences, of the awareness of the things that could easily (if not inevitably) happen to myself, that truly set me apart from people my own age. It is an aging experience, akin in nature if not in scope of soldiers who watch others die in combat. The sheer experience of death in one’s life is sobering, it grounds us and keeps us feeling the flow of blood in our veins, the motions of bones and joints and ligaments under our skin.
It is feeling the workings of our body and being able to step outside of our physical selves, if only briefly, to see how we interact with the minutiae of the world around us — it is these things that let us know we are breathing, but it is these same things that remind us that our breaths our numbered.
The idea that things can, in fact, happen to me, is why I have always been different from my peers. Why I tend not to take unnecessary risks, whether it be buying a beer at a bar when I know I won’t get carded, or taking another hit off a bowl, or trying a line on a desk. I know things can happen. I have seen them, I have lived them, I have known them — even if many of these things are through other people.
My life was marked by death before I was even born. I would venture to say that the death of my maternal, biological grandfather was the catalyst that sparked an unfathomable sequence of events that would forever mark my family in ways that will probably never be known to me — at least not their scope.
The knowledge that everything ends, the experiences that friendships tend to be superficial and nothing more than close-quartered convenience, allows me to take great comfort in being by myself. The knowledge that I can be alone in a space by myself, whether it be a tiny dorm room, an academic building hallway, a coffee shop, or even a large park, keeps me grounded. Observation of myself and everything around me lets me know I am, to some extent, still alive.
Certainly I am still capable of forging real bonds with people. But more often than not, distance and lack of communication slowly hacks away at the bonds, like some slow-moving pendulum of a guillotine blade. What is done is done, and cannot be undone. You can try to forge new threads, cords, or what have you, but you cannot re-create things of the past. This, perhaps, has been the most difficult lesson for me to learn. One that I do not like, and one that I will, perhaps, forever struggle with.