For the longest time death was an abstract thought to me. It happened at some point but that was as far as I went with it. But after my brother committed suicide in 1997, it suddenly stopped being so academic.
In having to deal with the fine points of after death care, I learned a lot more than I ever wanted to know about death. And because I have no idea why he did what he did, I read everything I could that could enlighten me. That included his very detailed autopsy report. Those are some mental images I will never get rid of, but in a way, they made it all the more real, in a good way. A way that says this really happened and is not a bad dream.
During the year after his death I started studying EVERYTHING about the topic. Religions and philosophies. Books on the afterlife and what happens to the body as it dies or after it has gone.
It ended up being - not so creepy as I once would have imagined it to be. All the isms and beliefs and thoughts from all those studies, led me to realize that dying may suck, or it may be beautiful, but in the end, we all do it.
I just finished reading Body of Work by Christine Montross and it really added another angle to my own body of knowledge and thoughts of dying, death. She tells the story of her first year in med school, dissecting her first body, Eve. At some points graphic and others poetic she talks about her own thoughts and emotions with cutting into a human body. It ended with the realization of the gift that Eve gave her and of giving a stranger hope, in healing.
It brings me back to the memories and thoughts I had of needing to view my brother's own body after death and all the inherent nightmares that brought. But after a time, those horrors faded, leaving me with a much more open? informed? thoughtful, mind about what happens to us when we die.
I imagine a lot of people would consider this topic gory or distasteful but to me it is another facet of life. It makes me much more aware of how I live my life NOW. I am alive now and someday I will not be. And no matter how frustrating my life can be sometimes, it is still a gift I do not want to waste.
We are celebrated in birth so we should also be celebrated in death. I can help you with that.