Friday, February 09, 2007

Due Process ...

I'm pretty smart. My math skills aren't the greatest, but most of us don't need calculus in our daily lives. I can balance my checkbook and make change in my head. Not that I ever need to make change for anyone. I'm pretty good at presenting an argument and making people see my side of a story. My grades weren't always the greatest, but that's because I'm lazy. My friend Qusai used to harp on me in college (and I mean "harp" in a nice way), "Do you realize that if you just applied yourself a little, you'd be a straight-A student?"

"Yeah," I'd reply. "But I can not apply myself and be and A and B student." Who looks at college transcripts anyway?

And Mensa keeps bugging me to pay my dues and join in all its cerebral fun.

So this computer in my head is running on a pretty spiffy processor, though my RAM isn't what it used to be. Why can I remember the names of most of my kindergarten classmates, but I can't remember if I opened the garage door before I walk outside?

All that said, the one thing my brain really struggles with is death. And maybe that's true for everyone. It's not something you use to strike up a conversation: "So, do you have a hard time contemplating death? Not just your own, but everyone's?" Maybe it's the finality of it. But finality is an easy-enough concept to grasp. Things begin and end all the time. My brain really hurts if I try to contemplate infinity - What do you mean the universe has no end? - but death is well defined.

Or is there simply an assimiliation process that takes time? Or are there two layers of understanding? When the twin towers fell, part of me understood that the buildings were coming down, but part of me couldn't grasp that what I was seeing was real.

Mind you, I don't dwell on the idea of death. I'm not Harry Burns in "When Harry Met Sally ...": I don't read the last page of a book first so I'll know how it ends in case I die before I finish it. I don't spend hours, days contemplating death.

But when people pass away unexpectedly, it's jarring. And obituaries for younger people are always more surprising than obituaries for older people.

So while the coverage of Anna Nicole Smith's death seems excessive to some, I figure, she lived her life in the media, so it's only natural that her death would be of great interest to those same outlets. Couple that with the recent tragic death of her son, the pending paternity suit, the newly announed lawsuit, her general kooky persona, and top it all off with the comparisons between her and Marilyn Monroe, and you've got a towering story sundae.

But it's not Smith's death that startled me the most yesterday. The woman who does my taxes wrote to me about a number of things, including the fact that she lost her son in December. He was 44. And she saw him just hours before he died. She said he had a strange, serene smile on his face when he kissed her goodbye.

Did he know he was dying? Could he already see the light? Was he still fully here?

I suspect most people don't know on any given day that they're waking up to their last day on the planet. And yet, we might be. Odds teach us differently, I suppose. For every day that we wake up and go to bed, we have one more reason to think that the same will be true tomorrow. But eventually, we all wake up for the last time.

And so someone's death sets us to pondering about how we should live each day more fully, and maybe we do, for a time or two, but we lapse back into our complacency, confident in another day.

It seems morose to wake up every day and think about dying, but maybe that's a good way to inform our lives, a little daily reminder not to dawdle. But is it realistic to strive to make every day extraordinary? Or do we need to adjust our defintion of extraordinary? Maybe it's just enough to wake up and be grateful and kind and make the right choices.

Hmm. My processor's feeling a bit bogged down. Maybe I just need to play Tetris.


Anonymous Doreen said...

Yesterday evening when a txicab (one of three) was involved in a wreck at Monroe & Franklin and came barreling down the sidewalk at me - I was reminded that we just never know when it is our turn!

9:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Death is a part of life and should be accepted as such. And when you lose a lot of people, like I have, you begin to realize that grief, in many ways, is a very selfish emotion. I will understand why my 16-year-old brother was taken, or why I've lost three very close friends, my dad and nearly all of my uncles and I'm not even 50 years old. But I accept that it happens, I grieve and then I move on and try to incorporate the experience of loss in a full life. And I hope, though my experiences, that I can help my friends through their own tragedies. I don't think death should be contemplated as much as LIFE should be contemplated. Are you living the best life you can? Are you filling your days and not wasting your time? Are you reaching out in kindness and fellowship to your fellow man? Do you love your family and friends and tell them you do? The greatest gift of all, if there can be one, when somebody close to you dies, is that you -- that's right, you -- have no regrets.

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops. Left out important word ... NOT UNDERSTAND why ...

2:19 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Well put, Anon, especially the comment about us having no regrets when someone passes away. Best to not leave things unsaid. Good lesson.

2:38 PM  

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