Probably every kid goes through a phase when they are fascinated by death. Dinosaurs are dead. Uncle is dead. Trying to wrap their minds around this. And it almost seems to me that after that period of fascination and trying to understand we do our best to forget that death is there, part of life. Which means that death is an incredibly taboo subject in our culture… Nobody wants to talk about it and in terms of parental embarrassment it’s probably only rivaled by the sex question. It feels really vulnerable and private and intimate to talk about death in presence of other people. And of course for kids asking “when will I die” or “when will you die” is a question like any other. Like on a recent flight from Poland. Just before landing Ingrid started a discussion, totally out of the blue. I freaked out just a little (I mean, come on… discussing death just before landing?) and then I sighted with relief that nobody around us speaks Polish, so I can ramble on. I explained how no energy in the Universe is created or destroyed, so even after we die our energy is still around. All that we once were will remain in this world. Our bodies will decompose and become parts of something else- some particles will become a tree, some will be grass, some maybe a bird. Maybe wind that other people will feel on their faces. Some particles that were once us could maybe become part of another person. She took it in like it’s the most natural thing in the world. But truth be told, it will never be my favorite topic to discuss.
“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?” Richard Dawkins