…And Then I Died.

skull-with-butterfly-eye

Click the pic for the original challenge. Written for Ermilia’s Picture It & Write.

I amused myself once with the thought that I would end my autobiography with those words. It seemed silly and therefore funny to me that we read every story wondering how it will end, when in fact, we already know. Everyone dies. That’s how it ends. Fiction or non-fiction, adventure or romance, the characters all die in the end. At least they’re supposed to.

Historically, literature reflects a cultural addiction to creatures who don’t die. I’m never going to embrace vampires and zombies. Dead things that eat me are disgusting, actually anything that eats me is – I’m not wildly keen on giant snakes either. But I can’t help observing this interesting parallel. As long as I can remember, I’ve had rational adults telling me that my soul can achieve immortality through the worship of a risen corpse.

Irony aside, what do we see in the face of death that causes this need to avoid it? Most of us have a horror instilled in us from a very early age. It probably begins with the alarm in our mother’s voice the first time we step out into a street without looking. In short time, we all face some picture of mortality that wears a black cloak, carries a scythe and whose face is too frightening to look upon. It makes a certain sense. Death is indeed the one experience we must all share, and so the image of it chasing or haunting us seems fitting.

Death, however, does not chase us. It is we who chase death. We race toward it every moment of our lives and poor death has no hope whatsoever of escaping us. And so then shouldn’t it be perceived as a glorious achievement when we finally capture it? Perhaps the face of death should be garnished in garlands, and radiantly beautiful; our tombstones polished trophies boasting of our success.

Humor offers escape, and many of us laugh at death. Shakespeare gave us these words of solemn reflection in Hamlet’s famous scene, “Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft.” I laughed when I heard that. Of course I was the only one in the theater who did, but I couldn’t help myself. I pictured poor Yorick’s drooping lips hanging rotted from his skull, and the thought of Hamlet oft kissing them was pretty funny. I couldn’t kiss Kyle after the play, not for the image, but for the fits of giggles I didn’t want to explain.

Seriously though, the realization that I come to when I look into the face of death, is that whether or not I embrace the cults or the religions of immortality, I seek immortality and perhaps we all do. I’ve written more than once that my greatest dream is for my words to live on after I’ve died; to dance on my grave as I wrote in one post. Each word that I type brings me one word closer to, “…and then I died,” and so each word I type brings me one word closer to my dream.

Ultimately, each of us looks into the face of death and comes to terms with it in one way or another. We have to. If we don’t, we live in fear of that black-cloaked guy, and how can that be considered living? It doesn’t matter whether we are going to live a hundred years or die tomorrow. Whether it’s to travel the world, or to jump from high places, or to curl up with a good book, or to sit down to write one, everything we do, we do in the face of death. It’s only in the face of death, we can find the courage to live.

© 2013 Anne Schilde

Advertisements

About Anne Schilde

Image "Webster's Kiss" © 2011 Anne Schilde Thanks always for reading! ♥
This entry was posted in Annietorials and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to …And Then I Died.

  1. kingsleycw13 says:

    So much to follow here, and then discuss- love it! 🙂

  2. Isaiah says:

    I look forward to your pieces because of your fresh perspective. You didn’t fail me here. Although I do subscribe to a relationship with Jesus, I compliment your challenge that “death” is faced (or better, studiously ignored) with such a visceral reaction by most people.
    I’ve lost people close to me: some young (my age), some old. Death is a reality.
    I hope my written words outlive me as well, but in the meantime, I enjoy a quiet contemplation on death from time to time. It keeps things in perspective.
    Bravo, and keep up the brilliant work.

  3. Indeed, Anne… “It’s only in the face of death, we can find the courage to live.”
    It is this thought (as I age) that spurs me on to ‘live’ this life as peacefully and as joyfully as is possible. This is not a rehearsal.
    I really enjoyed your thoughts, your humour and your wonderful writing ability, Anne… 🙂

  4. You make great points. I particularly like:

    “What do we see in the face of death that causes this need to avoid it? Most of us have a horror instilled in us from a very early age. It probably begins with the alarm in our mother’s voice the first time we step out into a street without looking.”

    “Death, however, does not chase us. It is we who chase death. We race toward it every moment of our lives and poor death has no hope whatsoever of escaping us.”

    Which brings me to another point that your essay brought to mind for me:
    If “…humor offers escape, and many of us laugh at death…”,
    then you made me realize that I really don’t want to live forever –
    it’s just that I really don’t care to die.

    Randy Mazie

    You need to post this in the Ermilia’s word press blog (I didn’t see it there)

    • Anne Schilde says:

      I just saw Jack the Giant Slayer and there’s an exchange where Isabelle says, “I thought you said you were afraid of heights.” Jack answers, “No, I said I wasn’t wildly keen on them. It’s falling I’m afraid of!” To carry your thought a little further, it’s not even really dying I don’t care for, it’s pain. I rather don’t enjoy that whether I live through it or not.

      • Who knows if dying really is a pain… some might say if it is, then you’re doing wrong. 😉

        I tend to think that I wasn’t in pain before I existed, so why would I be after?

  5. joetwo says:

    I seem to recall reading a fairy story which ending with the lines. “And they lived happily ever after until there was a worker’s uprising which overthrew the old order and the fair maiden and her prince were brutally beheaded by their own men.”
    Death is common to us all. Good deaths are rare. Good piece Anne.

  6. Anna says:

    I can’t quite put into words how much I enjoyed this post, after a long Anne-less tedium, so instead I will write seemingly unconnected sentences.

    Hamlet is my favourite of Shakespeare’s plays.
    ‘And so then shouldn’t it be perceived as a glorious achievement when we finally capture it?’ made my heart race.
    Medieval people drew dancing skeletons as a way of accepting death.
    ‘You don’t live until you’re ready to die.’

    • Anne Schilde says:

      I suppose you might be one to laugh with me at silly imaginings during the somber moments of a play. I find reading Shakespeare to be ghastly, but I’ve enjoyed them all in the theater. I liked Taming of the Shrew best among the seven I’ve seen.

  7. kz says:

    this is great. up to your usual high standards. ‘It is we who chase death’..really well-expressed. even the title’s very intriguing. 🙂

  8. Ermilia says:

    There are so many great quotes in here. It’s bubbling with them. I just want to cradle them all! 😀 It also reminded me of a post I made a long time ago about immortality. It also made me think of this quote ““The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” Mark Twain.

    As a human, the idea of death is frightening. Some might think I have more reason to be scared because I’m an atheist, and I don’t believe in an ‘afterlife’. In reality, it makes me more eager to live now. This is my only life. This is the world that is real. I hope to do my part, bring some more goodness into the world, and hopefully be remembered by a few for a few decades. I hope that those of the future will live in a better world, with my small contribution. I also think that in a sense, if we were immortal we couldn’t possible keep having children. We have to die to let the new generations through.

    – Ermisenda

    • Anne Schilde says:

      I love Mark Twain! ♥ As much fun as a story may be, the dream of living after death, for us writers anyway, depends heavily upon being so quotable as he!

      I can’t directly comment on religion because it’s impossible for me, having no life of my own. I do think we all believe what makes us the most comfortable, and that’s why tolerance is so important. Paraphrasing from my recent novel… we collect “who we are” the same way we assemble a wardrobe. …when it’s all done, we may not like how another person dresses, but it’s really just clothing, and the important thing is how we look after we are naked and dead.

    • Anne Schilde says:

      …and some of us are better looking if you focus on the moth in our eye socket.

  9. nightlake says:

    Powerful write-up, Anne..

  10. Thought-provoking! One of my greatest dreams is also that my words remain and are remembered even after I die. I believe that’s the dream for every ambitious writer. It’s so true that it is death that makes us live… live to the fullest!

  11. Nanda says:

    And then I died sounded so sweet to me right now that kind of freaked me out. 😦
    And I guess Anne Frank had her wish after all, didn’t she?
    x

Stuff You Get to Write

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s