This was written a while ago; I am publishing it now because time has passed.
I am about to go to Peter’s funeral. Peter was a friend from uni days. To be accurate, Peter was a friend from the year immediately after we left Univeristy. When I knew him he was doing a PGCE and living in Newton Hall (“the largest private housing estate in Western Europe”) and I was living in a cottage in Pity Me. (I kid you not).
I find death confusing.
How can something as varied, complex, multi-dimensional and spontaneous as a human being suddenly stop being? How can a person simply cease to exist? For years re-incarnation made sense for me; I could not comprehend that such vitality and life could be snuffed out – a brief candle. Unfortunately for me I read Reincarnation – a Critical Examination by Paul Edwards and had to acknowledge that there simply is no good quality evidence for re-incarnation. Schmevidence, yes. Evidence, no. So I am left reluctantly staring annihilation in the face every time someone I know dies, and blinking in incomprehension. I simply do not understand it.
Grief is about life, not death. If someone ceases to exist, there is nothing there to pity. You can only feel grief about life – about the things they suffered during their life, what they missed during it or what they miss by being dead. Or else you feel grief for yourself: for the absence you feel, for the jokes you won’t share with them, for the conversations you’ll never have.
As well as confusion, death leaves me feeling angry. Not at the unfairness of it. Life is far too full of unfairness and suffering for anyone to consider early death as particularly unfair. A good life and an early death is preferable, surely, to some of the truly dreadful lives doled by the unjust hand of random chance. So there’s no reason for me to feel angry, but still I do. Anger might be too strong a word. When my friends die, I feel cross.
There’s a distinct John Donne-ness to my reaction to Peter’s death. I know very well for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for me. Peter’s not here, any more, after all. Grief is selfish. It’s all about me, me, me. I’ll miss Peter. I’m feeling confused and cross. I’m too young for my friends to die.
So tomorrow, when I go to his funeral, I hope that I will get a glimpse of Peter, and aspects of that complicated, private, gentle man that I never knew about. I want tomorrow to be about him, him, him.