“How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life”
– James T. Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
So, I prove my “Geeky” score on OKCupid here by using this quote. But, that’s OK because geeky though it is, it’s a good thought-provoking quote. And, too, where it comes from has some significance for me in my personal history that makes it all the more relevant really.
With the news that one of our cats has what they believe to be a tumor that may be cancerous, I find myself back in that place of dealing with questions of life and death that I last was in with the sickness and death of my mother. And, while we don’t yet know for sure if it is cancer and if it is cancer, what kind it is, the mere possibility is enough to require me to look once again at the question of how to deal with such things.
It would seem on many levels there is much that is changing with me. Indeed, I think that the changes may be coming more quickly now, things falling one after the other to the floor as I cast them off. And it would seem the question of how I deal with death is another one that is changing.
Regardless of what this turns out to be, I realize that I am going to deal with death differently than I did with my mother. Quite simply, I’m not going to dwell on it. I realize that my mother’s illness and death essentially shortened my own life by 2+ years as I basically put myself in a place where I viewed my life as on hold and in a land of darkness until it was over. Some of it was out of a sense of duty, that it’s inappropriate for someone who’s mother (and only remaining blood relative) to be anything but in a state of perpetual near-mourning. To do otherwise would be akin to one who laughs and smiles and jokes at a funeral. Or so it seemed to me. Other of it was the natural pain of losing the one person who had been the center of my universe for so long. As Kate Bush says, “Mother stands for comfort”.
But, aside from the “whys”, the fact remains that I lost those years of my life by living in this very deep and dark place. And, I realize increasingly that I myself only have so much longer left. And so I simply don’t have the time to waste going back into that place for years at a time once again.
And so I won’t go there. One of the key things that seems to be changing is that I believe on some level more and more in my ability to fashion my world. Perhaps an element of the pagan sorcerer that my friend Cinnamon says she sees in me. And so I am determined to use that ability to change how I deal with death.
And so as I’ve been ruminating on this question these past two days, the old Star Trek quote came to mind. And then I realized that it is imbued with an element of magic since I first saw that movie in the theater with my mother and seeing that with her is one of those very strong memories I have of her. I remember her crying hard at the end with the scene where Spock, dying, bids farewell to Kirk. She always cried easily at movies. And, I always felt that it was important when she was crying for me to not be upset: that it was important for me to support her and tamp down my own upset. And so, though I was choked by the scene, true to the pattern that characterized so much of our relationship, I swallowed my feelings.
When I was going through this with my mother, I complained bitterly that we deal so very poorly with death in our culture. We basically approach it from the point of view that everybody lives forever, until they don’t anymore. There is no planning, no thought, no realistic non-morbid awareness of death. And, there’s certainly no attempt to find ways to view it as a positive, natural thing.
I find my thoughts returning to that fact again. And somewhere in the back of my head I wonder if I should sit down and write “The Pagan Book of Living and Dying”?
Something to think on.