Sunday, August 25, 2013

Death of a friend

Friend of mine died yesterday. Never actually met him in person, as happens these days, but he was my friend anyway. Was going to come visit us earlier this year, but then was diagnosed with cancer. A brief bout of hope for remission, but then those hopes were dashed by subsequent investigations.

Today I received an email from his daughter, telling his friends that he had died.

He was what you might call a 'God-fearing man', and I get the impression he was OK with dying; a notion incomprehensible to me, an avowed emortalist—but some people just are OK with it, and I can respect that. I have a sneaking suspicion that even if significant longevity were to become available, many people would continue to adhere to their faith. The consequences for society of this would be interesting to speculate about. (It's cropped up in my books quite a few times, for obvious reasons; especially in the Tethys prequels.)

Still, very few people will ever be truly 'comfortable' with dying, though they may talk themselves into denial of this simple but powerful instinctive reaction to the notion of their personal extinction. My friend wrote a poem that reminds us of this, and maybe also expresses our deep abiding fear of the worst thing that we can possibly imagine to happen to us after we're dead. (Yeah, I know, what can possibly happen to us at that point—right?) Still, ponder this poem, which I would find profoundly touching and revealing, even if it hadn't been my friend who wrote it.

The title says it all: what we most fear is that we are forgotten; that our death will not make a difference to the lives of those that mattered to us; that life will just carry on as if we'd never been. Of course, ultimately that will be the fate of everybody; if only because the universe won't leave us any choice.

Remember Me

I am not here, nor do I sleep
I walk not the ground beneath your feet
I breathe not the air in which you stand
No longer here, no longer man
Tis with these words I now depart
To lessen sorrow within your heart
My spirit soars now in Heaven high
For God has written that man must die
Remember me for good I’ve done
Remember me for battles won
Remember me
Remember me

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