Over the years, I’ve had the unfortunate experience of seeing several friends die too young. In fact, the first anniversary of the death of one of my best friends occurred last month, making me reminisce about what it was like back when he was alive. And it’s weird to think about what’s happened since.
Death, in my mind, not only robs you of life, it robs you of being around to see what happens next. First of all, you wouldn’t know who else died right around the time you did. Even if Gene Simmons spontaneously combusted on stage the very night after your day of doom you wouldn’t know it. Your house could be hit by a tornado a day later, or your car totaled while Uncle so-in-so was drivin’ her home and you would have no idea any of it occurred. But I guess at that point you wouldn’t care, either.
People who’ve lived through death-defying incidents love to tell, in painful detail, how they narrowly escaped a life-threatening situation. It’s always a car wreck where the cop on the scene admits how lucky you are to be alive. Or it’s some stupid feat you attempted like jumping off a cliff into a quarry pool, or trying to navigate a ski slope well above your skill level. These stories always end the same way—“I could’ve almost died.”
Probably the most harrowing story you’d ever be able to tell about yourself is how you died. But death cheats you out of that one too, leaving it for your friends to embellish in their own unique storytelling fashion. Even with creative license however, they’d never be able to capture the true feeling of knowing you’re about to die, or what it felt like when you actually went. Are you really supposed to move towards the light at the end of the tunnel?
I imagine one of the biggest pastimes in the hereafter is sitting around at the bar comparing stories of what it took to get you there: “The plane was going down, there was nothing we could do but scream and pray those last few minutes.” “That ain’t nothin,' I was eaten by sharks—sharks I tell ya! The horror.” “I was shanked in the prison shower 47 times—try that one.”
Then, just like in real life, you have those typical, run-of-the-mill stories: Cancer? Heart attack? Peacefully in your sleep of natural causes? All of those stories almost also end the same way—“My entire life flashed before my eyes.”
Another weird observation about dying is that people in graves haven’t eaten in a very long time. I get really hungry if I don’t eat at least one solid meal every day. Just think, you can’t have your favorite foods any more, or a drink for that matter. The lyrics to the Drive By Truckers’ song “Women & Whisky” includes the line “when I’m six feet under I think I’ll need a drink or two.” And that would be the best time to party your ass off—no more responsibilities, and you don’t even have to get up in the morning.
Trouble is you wouldn’t have anybody to party with. All the fun stuff is happening above ground and you’re missing it. I think about that a lot, too. All of the parties, concerts, movies and sunny days I’ll miss when I’m gone. The fact that my friends will be able to go on and enjoy those things without me really pisses me off. But then again, I sometimes feel a little guilty when I’m enjoying a good time my aforementioned buddy would’ve loved to experience right along with me.
People have their own concepts of death and dying, and what it’s like to be six feet under, missing all that’s going on up top. They say funerals are for the living, and that we spend too much time thinking about the one thing we won’t have to worry about once we’re the guests of honor.
Chuck Crowder is a local writer and general man about town. His opinions are his own.