Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Death is nothing to us

Dead bodies seem like sacks of dust to me. I don't see a person when I look at a dead body. I see an envelope where a person once lived. The force that stirred that dust is gone, and with it, the thing I loved.

Beyond the bright anguish of fresh grief, I have no attachment to bodies, and I don't care what happens to mine after I'm gone, but I've always been fascinated by the memento mori. It seems an odd way to hold onto the memory of love: by making a picture of the moment of your greatest anguish, of the moment when the person has ceased to be. It's like keeping a picture of a package that held the letter that brought some dreadful news. It's not the letter; it's not the news. It's merely what was left when everything was done—some wrapping paper, a bit of string, a few clots of stuffing—as evidence of what was lost.

While I find the memento mori strange, I find the pictures in the Life Before Death series strangely soothing, as if of strangers who have crossed a threshold and left something behind to reassure me of how deep and quiet is that long, long sleep.

[eta: link fixed]

Courtesy of dooce.


TenaciousK said...

Uhm, I think you need to check your link to the pictures - it just takes me back to your post which, lovely as it is, seems to be lacking a certain, er, visual accompaniment, shall we say.

Dawn Coyote said...

Ah, thanks. It's fixed now.

Splendid_IREny said...

that was a beautiful example of synchronicity if I've ever read one.

I went to the link, and had to watch the video of the carnivorous fish; now I'm quite frightened.

Dawn Coyote said...

Well, we share an obsession with death, don't we?

I always imagined mine looked exactly like Anton Chigurh, and I'm glad to see he's got a sense of humour.