A Few Thoughts on Death

I am not afraid of my own death, which is surprising, because I am fearful of many, if not most things. It would seem natural that the oblivion of the only thing I know to be true, Life, would instill within me some sort of discomfort. And yet strangely, it doesn’t.

To me, death seems comforting. Billions of people, civilizations, animals, plants, and everything else have gone before me. Death is one of the least alone things I will face in this world (or after this world, I suppose). When I meet people that I seem to have nothing at all in common with, I try to remember that we will both end up the same, along with the rest of everyone else. Endings are not revolutionary or new. 

Jane Austen. Mother Theresa. Charles Darwin. Emily Dickinson. Michael Jackson. Nelson Mandela. Dinosaurs. All of them have walked through the doors of fleeting life and into the unknown. And while the doors may seem terrifying, etched in black and sorrow and perhaps worry and despair, I still find it comforting to know that people have walked through them before me, and people will continue to walk through them after me.

Now, while the actual act of death may not scare me, I would be lying if I said the process of getting there doesn’t plague my mind sometimes.

I fear watching the people and things I love fade away, either because they forget me, or I forget them. I fear watching the people I love die, and having to live without them until one day, years later, I follow in their footsteps. Even more, I fear dying and leaving the people who love me behind. I don’t want the people I love to feel the same grief I would experience if I lost them.

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There is a quote from Winnie the Pooh that that I find troubling, although I must admit, the sentiment is quite sweet:

If you live to be one hundred, I wand to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.

The idea of loving someone so much that you don’t want to live in a world without them isn’t strange or inherently terrible. I think we’ve probably all felt that way at one point or another in our lives. Still, upon closer examination, I think the quote pretty selfish. My best version of myself would rather the quote go something like this:

If you live to be one hundred, I want to live to be a hundred plus one day, so that you will never have to feel the pain of losing one of your dearest friends.

Of course, I won’t deny my own selfishness. I may want to believe that my heart is more in line with the second quote, but that would be a lie. I’m pretty self-serving when left to my own devices.

Anyways, this is quite a lot of talk about Death.

You, dear reader, may be wondering why such a dreary topic weighs so heavily on my mind.

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The unfortunate truth is that my cat recently died. It feels like the death of a pet shouldn’t be such a big deal to me. After all, she was only a cat. We never engaged in a two-way conversation. She wasn’t very cuddly, and most of the time, I felt the sneaky suspicion that she would much rather be alone than have the rest of us two-legged-furrless cats walking around.

Still, Cuddles had been in my life longer than I’ve known most humans. She lived to be a few months over 17 years old. In my entire life, I’ve only lived 3.5 years without her.

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Some facts about the little Miss:

  • Full name: Cuddles Button Kiefer
  • Life Span: May 9, 1997- August 10, 2014 
  • Breed: Scottish Fold
  • Favorite things: bossing people around, meowing for food, drinking out of any water receptor besides her water bowl, rubbing her face (and eye goop, and snot) all over her humans’ favorite things, giving headbutts
  • Least favorite things: loud humans, young humans, humans stepping on her when she corraled around their feet begging for food, outside, and other animals
  • A memory: On the car ride home from purchasing Cuddles, my family tried to brainstorm possible names for her. Karly, my sister, offered up smart names that tied in to the color of the her fur, or her demeanor, or so on. As I we drove down the freeway, I looked out the window, and felt sudden inspiration. I contributed the beautiful name options of Palm Tree and Gas Station. Shortly thereafter, we settled on the name Cuddles. 

I could go on about my darling cat all day, but I suppose that’s not the real point of this post. 

The point is this: I miss her, but life goes on, and as time passes, I find myself not thinking about her as much as I did right when she died. When I do think about her, I remember how cute and fun she was, not about how hard it was to be in the room with her when she took her final breaths. 

Pain is temporary

as is happiness

as is life

as is everything else that has been or will be.

Except maybe death. But I think I find that comforting as well. 

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