The Mystery Of Mortality

When we weep for the dead, we truly weep for ourselves, for our loss, not theirs, and for our own fear of the grave, not theirs. The tears you shed do you no dishonor. We all weep in darkness.

– Jeff Crook

I live in a small town community that is very closely knit. We recognize each other’s faces, wave when we pass cars, and help strangers on the road if they have broken down. Our peace has been shattered lately, though. Two deaths have shaken our community: that of an eighteen year old and a twenty year old. Their deaths were unrelated and spaced out by a week but the foundation of peace that we formerly stood upon has become unsteady. We are all fearfully waiting to see if we are going to lose someone else.

Their deaths have also shaken my own confidence. How are we to know how much time we truly have? I’ve found myself thinking about death itself: the mystery of it and the fear that we carry in our hearts when it threatens. Death is an unknown that inexorably hunts us throughout our life. It is something that we always face but desperately try not to think about.

After all, Death is a mystery that not even science can pierce. We know causes of death, and what happens afterwards, but that single moment between when you are a living, breathing being and an empty shell devoid of life? It is an inscrutable unknown. The fact that it is an unknown is probably why we fear it so much. We go through life fearing death and we are then held back by that fear, or we rush to face it head on. People jump off of planes trusting a parachute to save them, dive into the deepest depths of the ocean with only a tank of air and a hose to keep them from drowning, and trek up treacherous mountains where a single misstep could end it all just to feel that they are alive.

Why do we do this? Why do we have such a fascination with death? For what else can we call this obsession we have other than fascination? The generations that came before didn’t actively seek out death just to feel that they were alive. They didn’t seek out ghosts and other horrors like we do in books and movies.

This is a question that has been asked innumerable times by people far more distinguished than me, and I am no closer to the answer than they are. The best we can hope to do is accept that our death is coming but we still have a life to live. After all, yesterday is history, the future is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.