My cousin died this week. She’d had cancer, both years ago and then again more recently, and this time, there was no escaping the final outcome. I went to her funeral yesterday, and I listened to the rabbi talk about my cousin, and heard her son deliver a powerful eulogy. He said that my cousin was defined by pain and pride — one was etched into every fiber of her being, and the other was how she fiercely took pleasure from the accomplishments of her loved ones. Her son is a college student, but as he spoke about his mom, and helped his grandmother stand strong in the face of burying a child, it hit me that he had been forced to grow up much too soon.
Parents shouldn’t have to bury their kids.
Kids shouldn’t have to juggle college classes around their mother’s funeral.
ME: Sometimes, life seems horribly unfair.
DEATH: Life isn’t unfair. Life simply is. It’s people who go about trying to pigeonhole the vastness of life into some preconceived notion. You should stop that.
ME: Pfft. Easy for you to say. You’re Death. You don’t have just a handful of years to try to make sense out of everything.
DEATH: You think being eternal means you can actually make sense out of things? T’y’ah. As if.
ME: So if there’s no right answer — if some things never make sense, like someone dying too soon — then…why are we here?
DEATH: That’s easy. You’re here to live, for as long as you’re alive.
ME: That’s it?
DEATH: That’s it. What you do with your life is your choice. Sure, some things will be outside of your control. Disease, for example. I mean, yeah, you can do things that make it more likely you’re going to get sick, but whether or not you actually get sick, well, that’s not your call. It’s not how long you live, but how well.
ME: Sometimes, things still seem horribly unfair.
DEATH: Again, you’re trying to shoehorn life into neat categories. Fair, unfair, deserved, lucky. What have you. That’s not what it’s about. Life is about living. Everything else is just how you label it. And as a wise person once said, labels are for soup cans.
ME: Huh. Maybe. Still, I’m feeling lousy about it.
DEATH: You know what helps?
DEATH: Listening to some fabulous music.
This would have been a different conversation if it had been Pestilence instead of Death. For one thing, Pestilence doesn’t appreciate good music.
So now I’m making a Life Can Be Lousy But At Least I Have Good Music playlist. I’m open to suggestions.