Watch your husband. If you are lucky—should he die in your presence—scoop him up and shovel him into the cellar; give him the kiss of half-life to keep his circulation going; stick a needle full of blood anti-coagulant into him; then cool his body with ice packs which you should have prepared earlier. Wrap him in blankets and freeze him with dry ice to minus 150 degrees Farenheit. Now move him into a capsule of liquid nitrogen which will freeze him to minus 320 degrees but—and this is the hard part—don’t drop him, for should he accidentally slip to the floor (cold cellar tiles, frozen spouse), he will shatter like a ton of glass—a million icy shards of husband everywhere—terrible mess.Then, rest in hope that cryonics, or “cryopreservation”—using extreme cold to preserve “living” tissue—will keep him intact until future medical skills can de-ice him and reverse the cause of his death, whether the icky ticker, the organ moribund, the circling C of cancer cells, curling like a finger, beckoning. (You say he died of old age? Nonsense. It is not legal to die of old age, no death certificate can say that; you must die in a clinical category.)
Of course, people have always wanted life after death, in heaven or in books, through fame or through their children.
-Jay Griffiths, A Sideways Look at Time.
In the PBS Documentary The Mormons, prominent intellectual Harold Bloom stated:
Of all religions that I know, the one that most vehemently and persuasively defies and denies the reality of death is the original Mormonism of the prophet, seer and revelator Joseph Smith.
Out of the whole documentary, this statement is what most stuck with me, perhaps because I’ve been pondering my own mortality as well as how I might cope with the death of, say, my husband. Joseph Smith seemed fairly concerned with death–many of the revelations he sought and recieved seemed to be well-suited to ease his anxiety over death. It is easier in many ways to believe that those things we are attached to . . . our bodies, our families, our friends, will continue on just as they are now.
On the show Six Feet Under , which looks at myriad ways people deal with death, and with living, a grieving woman asks the funeral director, “Why do people have to die?” His answer: “To make life important. None of us know how long we’ve got, which is why we have to make each day matter.”
A while ago I took a class on all the various aspects of aging. The professor started off the class by asking us, “If you could take a magic pill that would make you live until you’re 150, would you?”
Some in the class answered that of course they would. Others considered that the relationships that make life meaningful would all be gone by then, so it might not be worth it. Still others said that they might become lazy, knowing they had much more time to live out their life. A sense of urgency or responsibility might be lost. As much as the capriciousness and unpredictability of death might frighten me, knowing the exact age I would die stirs in me an even greater unease. Not knowing spurs me to make each moment count, to be here in this moment, every moment.
I can’t say how I will react when major tragedy and loss comes into my life, as it most inevitably will. Nor can I say how I will feel when my own death seems sooner rather than later. I’m sure it will test and transform me in ways I cannot currently conceive. However, I think facing into the abyss rather than closing my eyes to it is what will ultimately help me do what work I have here and now. I am grateful for this limited, mortal body I have. The fleeting fragility and tenuousness of life, like a short-lived butterfly or spring flower, is what makes it most beautiful and precious.
What do you think of Harold Bloom’s statement?