Animals have an instinct for dying alone – hidden from view. Even the largest, most conspicuous creatures find ways to conceal themselves when death draws near. If an elephant missteps and dies in an open place, the herd will not leave the carcass there, the others will pick it up and carry the body from place to place, finally putting it down in some inexplicable location. When elephants encounter the skeleton of another elephant out in the open, they methodically take up each of the bones and distribute them, in a ponderous ceremony, over neighboring acres.
We speak of our dead in low voices; “struck down;” we say, as though visible death can only occur for cause, by disease or violence…avoidably.
We send flowers, we grieve, we perform ceremonies, bury bones and scatter ashes, oblivious that there are countless others somewhere in the world on the same schedule of death. And unmindful that such immense mass of flesh, bone and consciousness will disappear by absorption into the earth, without recognition of the transient survivors…US…WE, the living who are left behind afraid –and alone…missing the departed.
Many humans fear death. More fear dying alone. I am no exception…or at least that was true until recently when I realized that it isn’t dying alone that I fear but LIVING alone! It is the thought of growing old alone…of being DISCONNECTED from love and humanity that frightens me.
I have come to realize that every new life is in trade for a life that departs. There is some comfort in the recognition of such synchrony and in the information that we all leave this world together, in the best of company.