Today, 16 years ago, in a small village in the East of The Netherlands, my father died. Death arrived as a relief, a respite after years of suffering. Death arrived and was as poetic as stupidly simple. Death arrived, took place and left. A father was no more, while my life was just beginning.
I am not a religious person. Neither was he. He fought with his mother until the bitter end about God. She wished he would accept God as his savior. He thought God was nonsense and refused to comply. She could not accept that he could not accept. They never got to say goodbye. Stubborn mules, the both of them.
Death is poetic. It is heavily anticipated, mostly feared and hugely underestimated in its capacity to bring peace. To live is to suffer, wrote the famous writer Scott Peck. I never understood the quote, until I saw a strong, vibrant man like my father, succumb to a sudden strange malfunctioning of his body. It would leave him weak, unable to heal, unable to fend off viruses like he had once done in the prime of his life. The malfunctioning would cause his body to be unable to fight pneumonia, and as silly as it was, that is what brought death to our house. So silly. So simple.
Death is poetic. It sings a bitter song. And then a love song. And then a sad song. And then a peaceful song, until the music ends. I never knew death could be so painfully beautiful, so breathtakingly painful.
The precise moment of death is hard to decipher. My father died in our livingroom. I held hands with both him and my brother. We listened as our father’s breathing slowed, sputtered, stopped, only to never return again. The moment of death is clumsy to the living; as novice death watchers we wondered; how will we know he has passed? Did we need a mirror to see his breathing? Should we wait in case he revives himself? At what point does one call the undertaker? Are we equipped enough to check for a pulse? I am convinced I sensed a soul, or some sorta thing. It left my father’s body, somewhere near his nose or mouth. Like a mist, rising up in a single strand, upward. Only I didn’t see it, I sensed it. It was the strangest thing.
I saw it again when I went outside. There it was, hovering above our backyard, in the clear blue sky of that September afternoon. I talked to it, as though it was my father. I told it to go, to wherever it needed to go. That we would be fine, that we would take care of eachother. The thing went higher and higher until it drifted to the side and out of view. Later, when I got home, I had the distinct feeling it was back again, and I scolded it. I was in my bedroom and told it to get out, to give me privacy, and it did.
Death is poetic. The suffering over. The life cycle complete. The offspring alive. The parent deceased.
Death is poetic and there is nothing about it you should fear. Not for your loved ones. Not for yourself. We celebrate birth and we mourn death. Since to live is to suffer, perhaps we should reconsider switching our themes. Let’s mourn birth and celebrate death. Death is not the worst. Suffering is. Suffering belongs to the living, to those left behind with a void the size of the moon.
Active death is a release, a surrender, an allowing, a let-go, an epic journey into the finality of calm. The breathing slows, the heart rate drops. The body goes slack, the eyes get glassy. The gurgling starts and the consciousness fades. And then, death arrives. A life is over, a mission accomplished, a book that is closed.
Death is poetic. It cuts like a knife through the bullshit of superficiality, bringing clarity to priorities and worth. No more silly games. No more cloudy minds. No more. Only truth remains.
Death is poetic.