Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Thoughts on a death

There’s something undeniably profound about death that those who have never experienced it near their hearts cannot even explain what it might be. But once such an event happens – whether it is a tragedy or good thing – one cannot stop thinking about it. The sensation is quite different than someone moving away. In the back of your mind, when you think about that person, a little mental map pops up and there’s a little arrow pointing to their location. Whenever I think of Rex, I think of Shanghai and him drowning in all the overly-exuberant natives’ interested stares. Whenever I think of Luke, I think of him shoveling hay in a Illinois barnhouse, wearing overalls and a grim expression. But when somebody dies, where in that mental map do they go?

I’ve noticed one thing about all the globes in my AP Human Geography class. They may represent the world as one sees it from space, but they never represent the world as one sees it from their heart. Where can the little arrow point to once somebody dies? I can’t bury them in Earth’s molten core, or place them in the sky – not only is my mental map sadly two-dimensional, but a little arrow on a cloud looks rather odd and fails to symbolize in any way the feelings I’m going through.

Yet somehow, the sensation I feel seems a lot more shallow. Why am I so shaken? I do realize that if Rex stayed in China, I’d lose contact over the years and would never talk to him again. He might as well be dead. But Chad’s death – the passing of somebody I barely know – affected me more profoundly than the moving away of a good friend.

I am shaken – not to the core, not enough to break down and cry like my friend did – but I am shaken enough to feel grief. I was in the bathroom washing my hands when I heard a girl scream and run down the hallway, screeching, “He’s fucking dead! He’s fucking dead!” Crude as it was, it’s what I feel to be the truest statement of everything I’ve heard about the event. He’s dead, he’s gone, his flesh will not be touched, his words will not be heard. I feel so conflicted about this whole event still, even months later. At first I feel sad that he’s gone. Then I feel shallow because I only feel this grief because he was geographically close to me – I wouldn’t feel this way if another stranger in New York had died. Then I feel ashamed because this was a human being that passed away, and the profundity of this undeniable tragedy is shaking everybody at school.

One thing is for certain, though – death affects us all. Cliché? Yes, but even though I did not know Chad so well, his image keeps floating in front of me. I cannot say here anything about it being sad that such a great person died. I didn’t know him, and comments about the friendly dead tend to be a lot more forgiving than comments about the friendly living. I know I’d shellack one of my friends if somebody asked me about him. But if he had died? I’d paint a glowing picture of him, all the negative details gone. So anything I hear about Chad is probably either exaggerated or half the truth. Either way, his loss is definitely felt in my school. I will say that it is sad – and earth-shaking to my young mind – that someone that I passed in the hallways each day in my school shall never see day again.

Goodbye, Chad. Goodnight.

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