Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Second Death

I think, perhaps, death would be much easier to endure if we only had to suffer it once.

Losing Craig was beyond painful. Suffocatingly so. To have someone there and then just... gone. No goodbyes, no farewells, no chance to fight. Movies have lured us into a false sense of what is real. We think that when death comes, we will get the chance to fight it off. That if we persevere, are good, remain true, somehow we just might be able to thrust it backwards. In movies, love conquers all, endures forever, and even cruel fate can be usurped.

The truth is much less elegant.

Death is ugly. It is mean, it is cruel. It doesn't just steal towards you in the dark of night. It comes on days that are bright and sunny, when you are smiling and laughing, utterly unprepared. It just comes and takes. You don't always get to fight. In fact, you rarely know it has come until after it has gone.

The emptiness death leaves behind is the worst kind of pain. There is no remedy, no cure, no solace. Time does not heal all wounds. It just puts distance between you and that wound. But the injury never loses its sting. You just grow more accustomed to hurting.

The first death, the physical one, is when our loved one is taken from us.

The injustice of it... we weep, we scream, we beg. But it is so permanent. So terrifyingly permanent. There are no trades for more time, no bartering that is possible. Rather than the depth of our love saving us as we think it should, it merely makes the loss that much more apparent.

We learn to get by with nothing, desperately trying to fill that ache with tasks that need to be finished, photos we clutch at night, clothes that carry the smell of the one we love. But still, really, we have nothing.

The empty spaces fill with fear.

Fear that we will never see our loved one again, fear that there is nothing beyond our life here, that they have disappeared from existence entirely. That we will too. Fear that fate is fickle, that nothing is sacred, that we will never be safe again.

Most importantly we fear forgetting.

That the person we once loved so desperately, so fully, will fade from our memory, that we will have moments of laughter without guilt, that life will go on without them.

This is the second death.

The first, raw, quick, over before we have a chance to comprehend. It rips and tears and is gone, leaving pain. So much pain.

The second death takes its time. It is years. Slow, long years.

Days go by and we get older while our loved one does not. Not just hours but days, even weeks, go by without us shedding a tear. We carry around photos but don't look at them as often. Clothes are given away. Things that collect dust are eventually thrown out. What was once the most important item in the world, even if just a lowly cufflink, now becomes one more reminder that no longer seems to remind.

Then one day we realize we no longer hear our loved one's voice in our head, knocking our thoughts about at all hours of the day.

We can't remember quite what that crease by their left eye looked like when they smiled.

We pick at our memories now, fewer and fewer of them, worn thin by overuse.

Eventually we cannot recall their voice exactly. Photos seem two-dimensional.

We ache over what we felt. Only we can't remember it all quite so well now.

It is terrifying.

This new kind of death is just as permanent as the first. How can you remember something that is now gone? How can you feel the touch of someone's skin when it is no longer there? How can you hear someone call your name so sweetly when they have been silent for years?

So you mourn.

You mourn all over again.

This second loss stripping you of the poor shadow of a person you so carefully clutched. The world you built up, trinkets and photos and notes to remind you, collecting dust and not bringing forth memories with quite the potency they once did.

It is like losing someone twice.