Last night, I attended the memorial service for an old friend. He was 28.
Brash, brilliant, and evidently too kinetic for this world to keep onto, his mom shared this thought with me afterward:
“Everybody dies sometime.”
It wasn’t meant callously, but perhaps offered as an anchor in a sea of questions. Or as a comfort that death is inevitable so we mourners can stop struggling against its perpetual manifestation. Or, perhaps this thought relieves us of our self-centered individuality and apartness.
But… man… screw that.
There are some deaths that feel tragic, and some that do not. Culturally, we seem to have created “approved of” endings, ones that feel complete for everyone and bestow dier and witness with a sense of closure and acceptance before the final breath.
Unanticipated deaths like these take post-acceptance. They require sitting with the scorched wound of it, only later softening into resolution and peace with the past (which is truly the only way we get to court the past).
Knowledge of our universal eligibility for a sudden ending nevertheless makes many of us ungraceful when it actually occurs, tripping over our feet in a tear-stained stumble toward acceptance.
And in its wake, we tell stories.
The stories we’d written for Dez were ones of glory. Stratospheric rises, magazine covers, and guitar riffs that broke into the hearts of more than we, his mourners. Or perhaps we wrote humble stories, of a life well-lived with a guitar well-loved, a wry laugh, a crinkled eye . . .
But in a life’s passing, stories turn into something else: memories. Memories become monuments. And monuments are never who that person was anyway.