On Life and Death

By Jason Menard

It is somewhat vexing to me that my thoughts are tinged with the spectre of death. Hold off the calls to the suicide hotline – that’s not what I mean here. It’s just that with the recent prominent deaths of Pope John Paul II and Terri Schiavo, much of our day-to-day conversation has centred around the issue, and it does give one pause to consider one’s own mortality.

So, on this day as I ponder my place in the world, you will forgive me if I indulge in a little self-reflection. I have no interest in making this site a blog where I bore you with the details of my life, but today I’ve chosen to stray from that carefully held tenet and open the window to my soul just a crack.

In light of all these aforementioned events, I realized that I am afraid of death. The sense of loss, the sense of displacement overwhelms me. And, with a family of my own, the pervasive fear runs deep.

I realize how easy it is to just be paralyzed by fear to the point where you no longer live. It is possible to love so much that it becomes restrictive. As humans, balancing the physiological and emotional need to love with the instinct for self-preservation is a daunting task, but one that must be undertaken to ensure our happiness.

I consider myself a deep man, but I choose to keep that to myself. To the outside world, the façade I present is one of cool intelligence, liberally mixed with cynicism, biting humour, and stoicism – and a lot of that is actually me. Inside, however, there is more depth, more love, and more emotion than could be guessed by my supercilious exterior.

Most importantly I’ve experienced first-hand the joys and unprecedented heights that love can bring. My wife and kids have opened up a world of experiences and sensations that, in a more cynical youth, I never expected to exist. Their gift of unconditional love has enriched my life in ways beyond expectation, and has made me more aware of my feelings. Despite not saying it to them often, I am more aware of the importance and depth of love that I feel for my parents, family, and close friends.

I believe we all, in one way or another, mature and develop that understanding. But with that understanding comes an increased apprehension towards the concept of death. As I grow and appreciate those around me more, the thought that it can all be taken away in an instant threatens to impose its will on my emotional attachments.

So do we embrace death as a natural part of life, or do we fight it tooth and nail, kicking and screaming the whole way? Is it better to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into our lives, opening our hearts fully knowing that, eventually, we could experience hurt like we’ve never felt before? Or do we hold back, steel ourselves against the future by detaching ourselves from the present?

And that’s where the fear of death comes. It is not my own death that I fear, because I know that – in the end – my death would affect me the least. It is the death of those around me that I fear. Losing a parent, a spouse, or a child would be devastating, and the pain it would render would be incapacitating.

To resolve this conflict I’ve turned to my wife for inspiration. Her grandfather, an integral figure in her life, passed away back in November and his birthday passed recently. At the time of his passing and off and on since then, a word, and image, or a memory will bring on a fresh onslaught of tears. Is it worth the anguish, I thought, to care about someone that much? But, eventually, that pain will subside. Instead of lament, her reminisces will be coloured with good memories.

Instead of recoiling from emotion, I choose to embrace it. I choose to love my parents while they’re here, love my wife fully and more deeply than ever before, and love and enjoy my children as they grow into their own personalities.

In the end, I still fear death. But, should something happen, I know that the pain will eventually fade away and I’ll be a richer man for having the honour of sharing my life with these people.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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