Death is the ultimate letdown

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Mortality is my first real exposure to Christopher Hitchens. I am certain I ran across him before, but this was my first book and if you have read it you know how ironic a place to start this is. It was his last writing before his death on December 15, 2011.

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens
Mortality by Christopher Hitchens is available on Amazon

There is no shortage of wit and fertile seeds in Mortality. It was a quick read on a heavy topic. You have no heart or are too young if by the end you are not moved. There are several passages and quotes of interest, to come at a later time. As all good books do, Hitchens got me thinking.

The birth of a child brings out the Hercules in any parent. Staying alive to be present becomes one of you primary goals, above all else. How you do that matters because they are watching, learning and crafting their own.

Given that, it would seem, death is the ultimate letdown for all involved.

We do not get to choose when we leave, but if it were up to us, for most of us, it wouldn’t be today. Beyond our own desires, we might prioritize loved ones that we wouldn’t want surviving us. Many of them would agree in protest, no death today, maybe not ever. So at the root, we do not want to let other people down and they hope a similar expectation. You do not even need to be a loved one since when people die and we are affected, if only as a lucid reminder that we do not have a vote, that we go when we go, no matter who is affected.

Stepping back from that thought, might it be the last drop of self-importance, that all involved need you in some way? People survive death as part of life and so clearly no one life is so critical to existence. Maybe this is not so for the couples you read about where one passes and soon after the other goes. However, for many, it is not so romantic.

Often you hear people describing it as a life lesson, something to be learned from, wisdom imparted. Christopher Hitchens takes on Nietzsche’s idea that,  “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Esophageal cancer may have killed him, but the path that attempted to heal him didn’t make him stronger. It would be hard to argue that deaths do not impact those attending and possibly in life long ways. Stronger, I don’t think so. From my experience, it is sad each time. Some say they are ready to go – often when they are older and having lived what they deem is a full life – is it not a let down then? Do we just grow so distant from people – living a long life, surviving peers and the physical and emotional distance that seems to affect so many – that it is no longer disappointing?