When you’re young, it is easy to romanticise death. It’s a wonderfully dark and dramatic concept that feels exotic to one who is certain of their own immortality. But one day in a moment of terrible clarity I realised that there will come a time when I will stop living. And suddenly death was no longer an abstract thing of beauty. It was a horrifying, suffocating truth. Perhaps it was because I had gotten older. Perhaps it was because one too many things dear to me had been lost. Whatever the reason for this epiphany, I was nonetheless paralysed with fear.
I have no religion to fall back on. I cannot accept any man-made explanation of an afterlife. Nor can I bring myself to accept the complete absence of one. The utter finality of it all is just too much to bear. How can life be so miraculous and so laughably insignificant at the same time? How can I feel like there is an entire universe inside my mind when in reality the existence of my mind is just a flicker of time in the grand scheme of things?
Distraught, I threw myself into the arms of the person I love most, painfully aware that one day he would be unable to comfort me with his embrace. He said to me, “everyone dies, but nothing will ever change the fact that our love existed.”
He was right. We may die, but nothing can be completely destroyed. Every atom inside of me has existed since the beginning of time, and those atoms will continue to exist for as long as there is a universe for them to exist in. Maybe the atoms inside me once loved another collection of atoms, and the love I feel for other things is just a continuation of love that came before me and will continue after. In this world I am small, less than a speck of dust on the surface of infinity. But maybe that’s enough.
And maybe one day, when I am ready, death will feel beautiful again.
If I could see, not surfaces,
But could express
What lies beneath the skin
Where the blood moves
In fruit or head or stone,
Then would I know the one
And my eyes
Would give the worm
No hollow food
– Mervyn Peake