Death in the Mourning
by Jarad Johnson
I was thinking about death this morning.
Cheery topic, I know. I’m full of them.
I was thinking about death, and it made me ponder, as I often do, why we as a culture, are, “death-
phobic.” After all, it happens to everyone. It’s the great equalizer with a 100% percent success rate.
What else can you say that about?
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not by any means looking forward to death. There are people out there who fixate and fetishize death, and I don’t think that’s healthy. I’m not ready to jump in the grave, crucifix (or, more likely, pentagram) in hand. But I don’t find myself scared of it. It’s an inevitability, as sure as aging and the constant change of the seasons, which by the way, cannot function without death.
What are you doing right now because you’re afraid to die? I think many things that people do like having children, getting married, are done because we are afraid to die. We try to create our lives, and the lives of others, because we know there will be an end, but of course we never talk about this out loud. We’ll talk about a lot of things in this society, what we ate, who we slept with and every detail of what we did with them, but when it comes to death, we are strangely silent. Try talking to your parents about what they want to happen to their bodies when they die, and you’ll see what I mean. But of course, we should talk about it. Its one of the most important things you can talk about! Not only does speaking openly and honestly about death alleviate anxiety surrounding it, but you can rest easy (pun intended) if your affairs are in order and your children and/or loved ones don’t have to suffer through the anxiety of planning a funeral on top of grieving you. It makes it infinitely harder, trust me.
In the spirit of things, I’ll tell you how I want to be buried. I want what it is called a natural burial. That means that I do not want to be embalmed (and no, it’s actually never required, I don’t care what they tell you. Look it up!), and I want to be buried simply and naturally, wrapped in a shroud with no casket, and buried underneath a willow tree. I would also like a home funeral, not some sterile, stiff lipped affair, with fake flowers and people filing past me, if possible. If that option is going to happen, however, I would like my body attached to a pulley system where my loved ones can have me rear up out of the casket to frighten the good Christian folk. They’ll enjoy it, trust me.
As a spiritual person, I like the idea of returning to the earth in the way that I believe we’re meant to. Let me rot like nature intended! As someone who cares about the environment, I like the idea that my death will benefit the earth instead of harming it. Thousands upon thousands of embalming fluid leaches into our soil every year. Yeah, and don’t think about the tap water, because of course it is filtered and cleaned (riiiiggghht?) Also, I see it as unhealthy. People would, and have, said to me that looking death in the face, and greeting it as an old friend instead of a sworn enemy, is macabre and morbid. You know I think is morbid? Continuing this charade that we like to convince ourselves of that we can somehow preserve ourselves into eternity, and continually hiding from that fact that death exists, is necessary to life, and is all around
That brings me back to our death phobia. The modern funeral is a testament to how much we want to pretend that death doesn’t exist. We embalm to preserve the body, we put the body in gaudy, audacious caskets meant to keep out every bit of moisture possible, so that we may lie in eternal slumber unblemished by the sands of time.
I don’t know about, but to me, that sounds like a crock of shit. You’re not a tin of spam that never goes bad, you’re a human, in a human body. Get used to it!
You will decay eventually, no matter how well preserved and hidden your death is. You’ll be naught but a bag of bones, given time, and I think you need to ponder that idea. Sit with it. For-ev-er. Take the garden for example. You plant and you weed and you tend and you prune, but nature knows that her time is finite. For all her flowers and her beauty, she must also rest and return to the ground. Her blossoms fade, her stalks wither, her seeds are sown for the next spring, and after the last harvest of fall we fade into the bleak beauty of winter. Nature makes room for death and accepts it as a natural part of life. So should we.
For many, this will be a statement of discomfort, something that they will want to ignore. But I
encourage you to stop hiding your head in the sand. It won’t do you any good in the end. I’m not saying to ignore the pain or the discomfort of grief but pretending as though it won’t happen is foolish. Living our lives in fear of the inevitable is a waste of time. And it’s not a happy thing but is necessary. I think we like to pretend otherwise, and it causes a lot of problems when we are forced to encounter it. We lie to children and then lie to ourselves, sugarcoat it, make it acceptable for this modern world, with all of its
Actually, death makes life all the more meaningful. Knowing your time is finite, and being at peace with that fact, makes everything more enjoyable. Problems you think are important fade, and somehow you know how to live your life in that way you want to, not in the way others demand of you. After all, you only have the one.
That’s about it, I think. The time has come for me to go (cue dramatic music). But seriously, think about what you want in death, plan ahead, and make a will. Get prepared! After all, you only get one life, but you also only get one funeral. Live and die how you want. Don’t let others do it for you.
Jarad recently graduated from college at MTSU, loves tea and coffee, and tries to spend every spare second reading. He has been a fervent gardener for 6 years and is fascinated by all related topics and has spent the last several years writing about this passion. He believes that nature is our greatest teacher. He majored in English with a concentration in literature and plans to pursue and master’s degree in Ecocriticism.