I've been thinking about death over the last several days for various reasons.
First, I read a book by Elizabeth Berg called Talk Before Sleep. It's a decent book about a woman going through the death of her friend by breast cancer. I like Elizabeth Berg, and although I don't think this was her strongest piece, it was well-written. She has a way of drawing you in to the characters and their stories that makes even a story about the mundane rhythms of waiting for death into a page-turner.
Second, my great-uncle passed away last week. I haven't seen him for several years, but I always liked him. He loved Mustangs, and he fixed up several and took them to car shows. I remember the first time I ever rode in a convertible, he drove one up from California and I had a great time riding around with my hair blowing in my face. He died while out camping alone, of natural causes. I think it's great that he died doing something he loved, and being out in nature. I hope when I'm in my 70s I'm still doing the things I love. If you're going to die, that seems like a pretty good way to do it.
Third, there's Osama bin Laden. It's been interesting hearing people's responses on Facebook or on NPR (those are probably my two main sources of news information...). Here's what I posted as my Facebook status when I figured out what had happened:
"Just looked at FB updates about how it was weird people were rejoicing over someone's death...figured it must be bin Laden before anyone mentioned his name. Who else would it be? Here's hoping God knows how to work good from this whole situation, and that we can start rebuilding instead of destroying."
Then, when I read a few other people's status updates, I added:
"...and may blind patriotism not take over our country again just b/c we managed to, after 10 yrs of destruction, get this one bad guy. Do Americans realize how many more terrorists we've created by our response? And how like terrorists we've become???"
It's kind of surreal knowing he's died. I keep thinking about how he had a mother who at one point (presumably) thought he was the most beautiful baby ever born, who held him and kissed him and lovingly changed his diapers. I hope he experienced that kind of love, anyway. Now I'm not saying that he was a good person or anything, just wondering at what point in life a beautiful child can turn into a twisted man who believes killing innocent people will make the world a better place. I think this about our own soldiers, too, when they choose to follow orders to drop bombs that will kill innocent people, or to state those orders.
Fourth, our experiment with chicken "farming" took a turn for the worse today. Last night something got three of our six chickens! We had brought Wet and Blanket outside in their own little pen (our 4-year-old son named them), and until last night they'd had a heat lamp on them each night. Joel made a roost for them but it didn't have a door. The other chickens had been fine the nights we'd forgotten to close their door, so we stopped closing it, so they wouldn't get annoyed with each other, sitting confined in their coop until we finally roll out of bed. Anyway, something got the two little ones. They were adolescent-ish with feathers growing in. I found pieces of them on the ground and then most of their remains in the crotch of a big oak tree right outside the fence. One of the big chickens is still missing, but I didn't see any of it, not even feathers, so it might have gotten away and just gotten lost.
Being one of the ones responsible for their survival, I feel pretty bad! The poor things were pretty helpless out there in the dark, on the first night without their heat lamp. What a way to go...
Pondering all of these deaths, it's interesting how the death of each of these individuals hits me differently because of their different situations. They're all sad (even the fictitious one, because people die of cancer every day similarly to the story). But the sense of sadness is different for each. It puts life into perspective, though--its fragility and its beauty, and the immensity of the effects of our choices on the lives of others and ourselves, and the immensity of the lack of control we have about so many things.