On Death & Dying

Death is weird.

I'm sitting in my office flushed from the relentlessness of the space heater beneath my desk and feeling the warm streaks of salty tears drying on my face. I shouldn't have attempted eyeliner today.

I'm sitting in my office responding to emails with overly enthusiastic exclamation. Room bookings are not as exciting as I am making them out to be this morning. I schedule tweets to let other people know the church is praying for them. I think about all the people my parents have to notify. I spend too long drafting a facebook message to my cousins.

I'm sitting in my office ordering stationery and cleaning supplies. We always need more pens. I add five litres of bleach to my basket and think about autopsies. I type up hymns and a psalm for the Maundy Thursday service.
The snares of death encompassed me;
the pains of hell took hold of me;
by grief and sorrow was I held.
I am telling everyone who asks that I am fine, and why shouldn't I be? Death is expected. My grandma passed away this weekend and whilst I'm not ready to write about her just yet, I will tell you that she was 86 years old. It's the age where when you ask them, they pause for a second to remember. Old. So old I had to double-check, counting the days from 1932 until this morning. I'm pretty sure I've been exaggerating anyway, putting her at 88 for the last couple of days.

What do you do with a death that was both expected and a surprise? It was a sudden death, decisive, and yet I was not prepared for the phone call. You're allowed to fall apart when they're younger, when it feels unfair. but what do you say when everyone your age has the same story to tell?

Where do I put myself?

When my friend died aged 24, it shook the foundations of my entire world and I went so many years fighting the impulse to text him as usual. But she didn't have a mobile. There are no Whatsapp threads to look through. I don't remember where I put her letters. I last phoned in December and the conversation ended abruptly. I felt unsatisfied but never called back.

All the platitudes about death are abstract. These things take time does not provide instructions for what to do while you wait to feel less affected. I lay in bed all of yesterday hoping to feel something, but I was numb. I ate too much. I stretched my brain like a muscle trying to create a montage of happy moments to remember her by, but my grief felt synthetic.

I wait for someone to tell me how I should be feeling. I wait for someone to vocalise the dark undercurrent in my mind, so I can say, "Yes, that's it. That's it exactly. Thank you for unburdening me from the ordeal of having to search for understanding on my own." I think about how long it takes for the brain to die and whether it comprehends what is happening. I sit in silence. I talk about anything other.

Death is how it feels when something that has always been there no longer is. I want to squeeze death like a stress ball, but it's the opposite of tangible. It's an empty space where a living thing used to be. Death is an almighty shrug, sulkily asking, "well what do you want me to do about it?"

I want to be as sardonic in the face of death as I always intended. I want to curl up like a kitten on your lap. I want to find the perfect song that unbottles me. I want to have all the answers. I want to know the plan. I want to feel guilty for making it all about me, but there isn't a her any more.

Mostly I want to write beautiful, painful poetry about what death feels like. Maybe I will or maybe I won't. Right now though, death doesn't feel like anything at all.