At the age of 95, you lie on a hospital bed surrounded by your loved ones and peacefully close your eyes, never to open them again to this world. Is that your idealized death? For many people, some variation of a peaceful death at an old age surrounded by family is desirable.
But not all of us will attain that perfect death. Some of our generation will die before the age of 35 from automobile accidents, natural disasters, homicide, heart failure, drug overdose and suicide.
Death is a natural fact for all life, something that unites all organisms on this earth in their knowledge of a determined end to their time here. And yet humanity is distinguished from other life forms in its incessant fight with mother nature for more time. Immortality has been constructed in the imagination of humans since well before the search for the Fountain of Youth that helped bring explorers to the Americas. And perhaps nowhere is the search for more time more relentlessly pursued than within the United States of America.
The United States is a country of control. In order to be a proper citizen of the United States, it is expected you follow a plethora of endless rules derived from strict societal expectations. These rules dictate how much trust the government gives you, and how in control of a situation you feel. Many people feel uncomfortable when they board an airplane because they are no longer in control. The airplane may be a human-made machine that cannot defy the laws of physics, but it is entirely controlled by the pilot.
Death is another thing we cannot control. Life can be prolonged, but even with the medical advancements of today the human body has yet to reach immortality. People live on solely through those who remember them.
Within the United States, to be remembered is not a sufficient redeemer to placate the inevitability of death. Death is something greatly feared in this country, and you can tell because it is something hidden away and not talked about. For example, take the raising of a child. When their elderly pet dies they are told they have “passed on” with perhaps some vague religious connotations of an afterlife where they have lots of bones for them to chew. But death is still seen with a negative connotation.
Death is an unknown. A void into which numerous philosophers, self-claimed prophets and Sunday school teachers have tried to throw various explanations. But the truth is we know nothing about it. And we cannot control it at all. Death will come for you at some unknown time on some unknown date and what happens after could be reincarnation, or it could just be a finality. Blackness.
I am not trying to go against basic human instinct within this article — most humans have a natural fear of death that manifests in a desire to stay being alive. People want to be alive, and death is the end of being in a state of living, so it makes sense that people view it as a bad thing.
But by continually hiding away death in our lives, we are identifying ourselves as in a losing race with time, when we could simply step out of the race and enjoy the time we have. Once a person accepts the inevitability of their death as well as the death of their love ones, they can truly experience and enjoy being alive. Why does a funeral have to be something we make into as only associated with negative things? People in the United States go through an elaborate process in order to meet the societal norms of mourning. One must dress all in black, speak in hushed tones, and never ever laugh at a funeral. A funeral is a time of sadness seen as the opposite of any kind of celebration.
But why not portray a funeral as a celebration of life? Why not reminisce of the memories shared and let one who has passed not be lost to you but forever remain in your memories?
Is death and its inevitability scary to me? Of course. But do I want all the people I have impacted in this life to mourn my death by congregating in some musty funeral home to sob and itch themselves in their uncomfortable black funeral clothes? Never. Celebrate my life and the memories we shared together by laughing and wearing comfortable and colorful clothes, and then sell all the junk I have accumulated and buy yourselves some nice hard liquor and drink it while watching the sunset.
Then I can face my death with a smile on my face.