“Just this once, everybody lives!”
(Doctor Who, “The Doctor Dances”)
Death sneaks up on you. You grow up, and people do die, of course; but when I was little I didn’t take it so personally. Now, when someone dies – and yes, I hate the euphemisms – it seems like an omen, Damocles’ sword flashing in the dark. It is why I don’t like to leave arguments halfway; because you are never guaranteed the “to be continued.”
When my last grandparent – my dad’s mother – died, it didn’t occur to me to miss her until much later. I think I miss her more now than I did at the time. Funerals make me uncomfortable; I always feel like I should be displaying emotion. You can make me cry more easily with the Doctor than with a funeral. My first dead body; in Spain, they make sure to refrigerate them, and they bury their dead faster than anyone I know. My grandmother – my mum’s mother this time – was a matriarch, a formidable woman who died as decisively and swiftly as one might have expected from her, after a life of thoroughly robust health. She left things tidy. But my dad’s mum, a quiet and sweetnatured woman, lingered a little in life, and quite a bit in my mind. I miss her because somehow it was unfinished; and I feel that more now than I did then. And to say it in what is inevitably a spiritual/superstitious vocabulary, it always seemed like it took her much longer to find her way home. For years I dreamt of her, vaguely sad dreams, until finally she (or I) found her way.
These deaths are natural enough. When a death blows a hole in family, the hole never goes away. Friends of the family lost their daughter. No; losing sounds careless, if kinder; she was killed in a traffic accident. Yet when I dreamt of her shortly after, it was perfect. A single picture of a sunny afternoon’s bliss. She was happy, and she made it across easily enough.
Then I grew up and stopped dreaming about dead people, and started remembering that I too was mortal, and what I stood to lose.