When I was young, I often wondered about the human condition. What makes us the way we are, how do we exist in the way that we exist apart from the way that lamps exist and floors exist and that electrical boxes exist? I mean, it’s all atoms and mostly carbon and water, so we’re not all that different, really. Except we are… and that’s where it gets weird.
Some people turn to religion, others to a blind faith in the void, but I think the truth is something in between. Like so many batteries in a circuit, we work together. We exist together. And one can continue to live on, even when the physical remains of that one are gone.
I think it’s why we’re such story-driven creatures. We tell stories so we remember. And if someone lives in a story, do they ever really stop existing? If we still love them and know them and feel them around us in the day to day, can they be lost to a void or whisked away to Heaven without us?
Every time one of ours falls away, I think about this. About how they can’t be gone because I remember them. Because you remember them. Because we remember them.
There’s a poem by Henry Scott Holland that drives this home, really, for me.
Death is Nothing At All
Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.
Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!
Clean yourself up. I’ll wait.
Ok, that’s enough. Life is for the living, as they say.
So many have gone before us and will continue to leave us throughout this life… they might not even die, they may simply become someone completely unrecognizable or their lives may take them somewhere we can’t go. Surely those are to be mourned just as hard as someone we’ve lost to the grave… loves not loved enough, friends we maybe never knew as well as we wished we had.
Every person who goes out also stays, though. They echo in shadows. They reflect off of every shimmering surface. They’re with us forever, they never go away. They are ours, we are theirs and that’s for as long as memory can last. For better and for worse. How, then, can the dead be lost?
Today… well, honestly, since I heard about the loss of Nefarious’s younger brother, I’ve been trying to find the right words for her. Because it’s unfair for her to suffer this alone when so many people feel her so hard right now.
It’s hard to see it with the blinders of grief on, I know, but in time, one day, you’ll notice us, Kiddo. You’ll realize you were never alone through any of this and your adopted family had your back for every step.
The Internet has brought us some strange relationships and moved some peculiar people into and out of our lives, but I have never once regretted our friendship. You’ve made me a better person because I find myself trying to set a good example or to live up to your expectations… I thought you should know.
You’re family, kid. And your pain is my pain. Your loss, my loss. But you know he’s not really gone, don’t you? He’s just in the next room. Like Mocha’s mom and Our Judith and Billy and so many others.
It’s probably getting kinda crowded in there, frankly.
… you would be the asshole that got me back to work, wouldn’t you? It’s the kind of thing you do…
Much love, have a safe trip and remember that you only ever have to ask and a whole community will crawl all over themselves to help you. Because you are so, so loved.
And so are the rest of you fuckers.
But today this is a blog for one. And I know she’s reading.