Is any obsession healthy? Probably not, but I like to believe mine is.
One evening while in bed a few months ago I asked my husband, ‘Do you think I’m obsessed with death?’
The question was rather rhetorical. For many years I’ve thought about our mortal fate on a daily basis. That night in particular I posed yet another set of questions to my husband about my father’s death. But still, I anticipated his response.
I wasn’t offended, but for the first time I became concerned about what quietly takes up so much of my mental space: thoughts of death and dying. People speak so little about our end that perhaps what I've been experiencing isn't even an obsession. Perhaps it’s just curiosity about what most treat as taboo. Or maybe it's just a natural progression of grieving those who've died before me. All I know is that my mind can’t stop asking about a million questions on death.
This past June 28 marked two years since my dad died. This past November 9 was three years since my uncle succumbed to cancer and this past January 15 was the fifth anniversary since my friend, Darin Leibovitz, left this world. Though there have been many before Darin that I have personally known who have died, his passing marked a closeness to death that I hadn't experienced before. And as the years progress death encroaches further and further.
People that have been integral in my life are dying with more frequency and none thus far have been more integral than my dad. There isn't one day--scratch that--one hour that goes by when I don't think about him. I'm often consumed by one overarching thought: where did he go? If his body no longer houses him (as evidenced by the alien lookalike in his coffin) then where are all the aspects that made him my dad? Where did his laugh go? Where did his goofiness go? Where even did his anger and obstinacy go? Life without him has fallen too quiet.
My dad felt so much...he expressed so much…he was so alive. Now that he's dead it almost feels like my experience with him while he was living was a dream. Did all that really happen? Where did all that energy go? More importantly, where is it now?
I'm aware how childish this sounds; it's as if I have no concept of what is death. But then again very few of us do, perhaps that's the reason we avoid talking about it. The mystery makes us too anxious.
I get it. Everything that we’ve ever known or attempted to know will be gone or at least radically changed when we die. Most days the mystery of death doesn't make me anxious anymore, it’s just left me incredibly curious. I wonder, can my dad hear me right now? Does he have an awareness that he’s missed and is still loved? Can my uncle see his grand kids growing up? Does he take on the form of an apparition and watch TV with us (he loved TV)? Is Darin experiencing ‘ultimate peace’ from the Alport Syndrome that caused him so much suffering in life and eventually his death?
I don’t know.
And I won’t ever know until I, too, take the plunge into the unknown and join the dead. In the meantime, as a means of comfort and curiosity-taming I’ll continue to recall the memories I had with those I loved deeply so that I can bring them back to life, if only in my mind. For there they are close, there they are with me and there is where our love is felt.
Viola. Vi. Vivi.