Of Life and Death and a Week

Jonathan McLeod

Jonathan McLeod is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario. (That means Canada.) He spends too much time following local politics and writing about zoning issues. Follow him on Twitter.

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4 Responses

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Jonathan. Besides the thank you, I don’t have anything to add.Report

  2. Mike Dwyer says:

    I don’t have a lot to say here. Since our own brush with tragedy last year when my daughter’s friend was killed in a wreck that my daughter just barely survived, I find myself thinking about the end more often than I would like to. My biggest fear is that I go with no warning, no opportunity to say goodbye properly. All I can do to remedy that fear is to remind my loved ones every day of just how much they mean to me and for my kids it is about trying to teach them as much as I can whenever I get a chance.Report

  3. Burt Likko says:

    I’ve driven by auto collisions on the freeway that were surely fatal and seen other incidents of recent death, but the vivid memory that springs to mind is taking a sightseeing drive one fine afternoon to Portuguese Bend near Rancho Palos Verdes. I stopped at an overlook with my camera, ready to drink in the view all the way to Catalina Island, when I looked down at the beach and surf. Paramedics were slowly carrying a stretcher with a sheet over it across the rocky beach, finding the switchback path that led up the cliffside. Whether the corpse on the stretcher had been the victim of an accident, an assault, or a suicide I never found out. But I stood there until they were out of view, transfixed, since ti seemed that walking away or breaking my stare would somehow have been disrespectful.

    It seemed that I owed my sorrow to the recently dead. The way this post makes me feel I owe Mr. Zellar my sorrow. The way it makes me feel I owe Jonathan’s friend David my sorrow. The way I feel I owe my sorrow to the unnamed traffic victim Jonathan describes towards the end of the post. I did not know any of those people, and accordingly there is no doubt that in a fairly short amount of time after posting this comment, I will stop mourning them. I know that my sorrow does them no good, nor does it do Jonathan or anyone else reading this comment any good.

    The only possible beneficiary of this sorrow, then, is myself. Perversely, I wonder if is this the same sort of sadness that comes from a tragic work of art — is there some sort of uplift in it? Perhaps that doesn’t matter, again, because I should feel worse if I did not pay the debt of sorrow as opposed to experiencing it, the indifference of the world and of the others who share it with me notwithstanding.Report

    • rexknobus in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I think that you owe the sorrow you feel to our “pack.” (I could use “herd,” which would convey largely the same thing, except that we are more wolf than elk.) We are an animal that runs in packs (or a pack, if we have a global enough view). And we probably have a higher abstract appreciation of the others in our pack than do other creatures of their packs.

      Had you not been looking down at the beach, you would have marveled at the view, but seeing a member of the pack downed awakened your connection to the pack — and the sorrow is owed to, and given to, the pack. A wolf might not have felt it at all in that situation and you were able to walk away and not be deeply changed. But, for me, that moment, that emotion, that debt, the toll you heard and the toll you paid is what makes us human. In our best moments we do not turn our backs on the other members of the pack.

      “The death of any man diminishes me.” Donne (who said all of this much better).Report