Some Thoughts on Life and Death

Apr 3, 2022 | Articles, Issue 1150

by Harding McFadden
[email protected]

Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

An aunt by association died last week. I’d known the lady for as long as I can remember, and even though she wasn’t related to me in any kind of biological or by-marriage kind of way, she was nevertheless like family. As such, she pissed me off as much as not, but I nevertheless had feelings for her, and when she was gone, I noticed a hollow spot that I never expected.

I suppose that I’ve reached that point in my life where all the old things that were standbys since forever are suddenly not there anymore. About a decade ago, my grandmother died, followed eight years ago by my grandfather. When she died, there was a sense of mourning and loss, don’t get me wrong, but he was still there, and as such it didn’t hurt as much as it could have. It wasn’t until my grandfather died, taking with him the last vestiges of not only himself, but her as well, that I really felt the pain of grief. I wasn’t saying goodbye to just him. I was letting both of them go, and therein was a pain that I didn’t expect.

I’ve cried only a few times in front of my wife. It’s not some macho thing, where I think she’ll see me as something less for having let out those kinds of feelings. It’s more that I don’t feel a lot of things as deeply or profoundly as some. I cried when my daughters were born. These were tears of joy. I cried when my grandfather died, and these were tears of sadness. When my dog died this past November, I cried, and they were tears of loyalty. When my aunt died, I cried, and they were tears of loss.

It would be easy to look around at the world outside and see nothing but degrees of loss. After all, I’m no sprig chicken, myself. My parents and aunts and uncles aren’t getting any younger. The few living men and women that I’m a fan of—the writers, and artists, and a handful of actors—are all into later middle age if not outright past it. So, the writing on the wall being what it is, and the death of my aunt as a reminder of the finite reality of things, it would be very simple to look at things and see the glass half empty, if not filled with piss as the meme says.

Though on the other hand, I have to see to the positives in life. For all intents and purposes, I’m more or less healthy, even if bifocals are in my very near future. My children are healthy and loved and intelligent and independent. My wife is still the greatest blessing in my life, one that I thank the good Lord for every day that we’re together. And the sun always rises.

People can be summed up in one of three ways. The ones that see the cloud; the ones that see the silver lining; and the ones who never look up from their feet long enough to notice the sky. As a teenager, I never saw the sky. I was one of those depressing wankers that figured it was all a waste, and that we were all doomed anyway. Thank God I’m not that guy anymore.

The second I held my oldest daughter for the first time, all those thoughts of futility and nihilism went out the window. The kind of world that could bring such perfection into the lives of her mother and me was worth the effort. So every day, in ways large and small, we make the effort. My grandparents, and aunt, and countless others besides, are gone now, but left behind memories and lessons, the accumulated wisdom (or lunacy) of their collective experience. My dog might be buried in the back yard, but he was always a good boy.

I’m going to continue to look at the silver lining, and get my kids to look up. Yes, there are times when things just suck. But they don’t last. If everything was just crap all the time, we’d hardly notice anymore. The fact that we do notice the bad times tells me that there’s something to compare them to. The fact that we can mourn, says to me that we can love as well. It’s all part of the experience. Life. The good and the bad. The rose and the thorn. And, yes, absolutely, those damned thorns do hurt, but to curse the thorn rather than appreciate the rose, seems to be missing the point.

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