At a very young age I realized I would die.
I recall at the time I was around five years old, and we were living out in rural Virginia. I awoke in the middle of the night once from a bad dream, I had seen myself as an old man in a casket. I looked like I lived to a ripe old age but five year old me didn't care about that. I woke up with a jolt and realized (at the age of five) that someday I will die. I recall bursting into tears and waking my mom up. She came to where I was sleeping (which if memory serves correctly was on a pallet in the living room) and asked me what was wrong. I told her I had a nightmare. She asked about what and I wouldn't tell her. I don't remember why. I just wouldn't.
When my mother died I took the news with mixed and confusing reactions in only the way a child can. I was saddened and upset, yet after I had my moments I went along playing like nothing happened. I understood that her being dead meant she wasn't coming back and that I wouldn't see her, but I didn't quite think about the whole picture. Again in the course of my early childhood I realized that I was going to die someday, but the second time around it didn't make me cry. It made me a little sad, but the second time I didn't cry.
After my mother died some years later I last more folks and pets. Three of my dogs died ( one his chain got wrapped around a tree when we took a day trip and he dehydrated to death, one got out of the fence and got offed by neighborhood dogs, and another got killed by our neighbors out of revenge). I also lost three more family members (my great-grandmother, a cousin, and an Uncle.) I was in a wreck that if the vehicle had been a different model I would not be writing this right now. Death has been present enough in my life to make me keenly aware of it (Though thankfully not as present as it could be. Still haven't had siblings, friends, or a lover die on me yet.) So I ruminate on death a lot.
It changes how you look at others for a start. I find that it makes it almost impossible for me to take my lover for granted. Each moment we are together living, breathing, smiling, laughing, having sex, and talking to one another is a divine gift which I am thankful for. I am distinctly aware that when we part there is no guarantee that we will see one another again which is why even when we argue or get into little spats when we see each other I try my damndest to make sure we end on a good and pleasant note. If something happened to either of us it might wind up being a heavy burden to carry around the regret that the last time you saw one another you were cross with that person. That is what happened to my dad when my mother died. It happens. Never end on a bad note regardless of whether the person is a lover or friend.
It also makes you realize that there is really no appropriate thing you can say to a grieving person. The only thing you can do for them is be there and provide support and comfort as best as you can, but nothing you say can make it better. They are going to be hurt, angry, confused, and maybe a bit lost. Do not tell them "Well, James is in heaven now" in the hopes that it will make them feel better. It doesn't change the fact that a mother no longer has her child in her arms. Do not tell them "Everything happens for a reason" because even if everything DOES happen for a reason, that fact isn't going to help the who has to sleep alone now. It isn't going to change the fact that he still refuses to change the sheets because the left side of the bed still smell's like his wife. It will not make him feel any less disoriented and confused and bewildered. To him there is no reason, and the sun still rising each morning perplexes him because to him it feels like the world has ended. Sometimes the best thing to say is absolutely nothing at all.
Most recently though, it has made me ruminate on how my Gods relate to death. I've been struggling with the traditional interpretation of the Gods association with death and the rejection by the gods of death miasma. Save for a few Gods the traditional (non-philosophical accounts) seem to imply that aside from Hermes, Dionysos, Pluton, Persephone, and Demeter most of the Gods have little to do with you after you are dead. That. . .just doesn't sit well with me, and still doesn't. Surely the Gods that I have felt great compassion from, great wisdom, guidance, and tutelage from aren't going to go "LOL! BYE" when I draw my last breath, right? So, I've been sorting things out, searching and looking. I've begun looking at the Gods from the angle of a dead man because that is an inevitable thing, and I will be dead far longer than I will be alive. How will I relate to the Gods and they to me after I die? I have decided that I'm going to start seeking answers to the issue of death. Maybe the answer lies in a philosophical school. Maybe the answer lies within another faith (in which case I would become two faithed). Maybe the answer lies in some esoteric practice or magical system. Maybe no answer will suffice or ring true and I will have to cast my lot with the traditional interpretation.
Who knows, I certainly don't. I go into this with no expectations and an open mind.
If you have some idea or resource leave a comment (if the comment module isn't working, check back later).
I'll never know for sure until I die, but I need to find something that rings true to me and that I can agree with. Something that at least provides some hope that my Gods will not leave me. I need this.