NOTE: The philosopher in me comes out once in a while. This is one of those times.
I used to love The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy as a child. I mean, what’s not to love about two kids having adventures with the Grim Reaper? The cartoon made death approachable and less intimidating; a stark, stark contrast from the happily ever after world of Barbie and the Disney Princess series.
When I was seven, I started to pay attention to Greek Mythology. I actually didn’t believe it, but I didn’t question it either (if you’re big on superhero comics and movies, you know exactly what I’m talking about). I was always in awe of the excess grandoise and deification of the people who actually spun those stories and how they made certain humans (and their often erring gods) seem absolutely larger than life. A lot happened with Hades (Orpheus and Eurydice broke my heart🥺), and if you are familiar with Greek mythology you know that people don’t just die – they graduate to the underworld.
The greatest single influence in my life is God and his Word. “Isn’t that two things?” The Word was God remember? And consistently, you have passages about communication with the dead (Samuel and the Witch of Endor) as well as judgment after the end of life as we know it. As such, I’m one of those people who doesn’t process the concept of death to mean the permanent vanishing of living beings. I believe that the people who die aren’t gone forever. Death doesn’t end life. It only ends our definition of it. When your definition of living expands, you’ll understand that everything that is dead is technically still alive.
Which brings me to the question, what does it mean to live? Is it breathing in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide? Wrong, the trees do the exact opposite. Perhaps breathing in air and dwelling on land? That can’t be it either. Well there’s two definitions of living for me, the biological and the holistic.
To biologically be alive is to possess cells and tissues and organs and systems that work together in a manner that constitutes life. Once the system stops functioning completely, you die. Being alive biologically means that you are bound by the MR NIGER D formula (Movement, Respiration, Nutrition, Irritability, Growth, Excretion, Reproduction and Death). What is dead becomes fodder for what lives to grow in the ecosystem. The circle of life sha.
To holistically be alive is not just to live, but to live. Not just any life, but a life worth living. And what is a life worth living?
Gen 2:7 And God breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living soul.
1 John 4:8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
And love breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living soul.
Love is all that constitutes a life worth living. When a person dies or is terminally ill and we say that they were once full of life, what we really mean is that they were excited to live. That they spread love and joy. That they weren’t massive, ridiculous pains in the butt to everyone they knew. That there was joy in life for them; joy in living.
The birds live lives worth living when they nurture their young into adulthood. Pets live lives worth living when they are a source of love and light to their owners. Even wild animals live lives worth living when they love their offspring and protect them from predators, sometimes sacrificing their lives in the process.
The moment love dies in you, it doesn’t matter what the stethoscope says – you are as good as dead. And the moment your physical body withers, if you have left love on this earth, you continue to thrive in the hearts of those you left behind. Death only transports the person, never the memories.
I hurt a lot when I think about the people I lost before I was able to give them their flowers. But then I think, what flowers would I have given them if they were alive today, that would ever be enough to say thank you? I’ve come to realize that I give them their flowers every time I think about them fondly. Every time I shed tears of loss, and every time I acknowledge their input in my life. I’ve given them priceless flowers that have grown in my heart, flowers that money could never buy.
I do not have a perfect conclusion to this piece, as there is never a perfect conclusion to the topic of life and death until the world ends. I do realize that this period is trying, and that you might have lost a family member, friend, loved one, or even acquaintance (to the pandemic, police brutality or otherwise). Let them live in your heart. Water their memories. It hurts a lot, but give them their flowers.