As a result of where my mind has gone tonight – considering the death of my grandmother, Christopher Hitchens, and others – I posted the following on Facebook tonight:
What I’m going to say here will probably bother some people I love, and for that I’m sorry; more than anything I’m sorry that it bothers you to read what I have to say.
I see death as a real, final thing. I don’t find consolation in the hope that I’ll see my loved ones again when they’re gone. From all the evidence I see, everything that we are is contained within our physical selves, and beyond that, only the memories of others can keep us alive in any meaningful sense. When our brains die, we die, and we’re lost for good, outside of the simulacra of ourselves that are kept alive in the memories of our loved ones. In terms of an afterlife, the best we can hope for is that the people we love remember the best part of us that they can and forget the rest.
I’ve seen a fair share of death in my life, and the more of it that I see, the more sure I am that I’m right. Maybe you find solace in the idea that some part of us lives on after our bodies die; I don’t. I find appeals to a future joyful life to be hollow, based mostly on wishful thinking rather than an appreciation of the world as it really is.
Where’s the joy in this view? Simply, it’s in the idea that grief draws us closer to those who are left behind, and tightens the bonds of family. The more we lose, the more we realize that we have to gain in the recognition that those who still live are important in ways we might not acknowledge every day.
So to all of my loved ones: I cherish every moment I share with you. Cherish the time spent with those whose lives you impact. Someday you will be gone, and all they can be sure of is the memories of you that they have. In this life, I don’t think we can really hope for anything more.
We’ll see where it goes.