It's a little strange to me how death is such a complex thing, at least philosophically. Biologically, it's pretty simple; the body simply ceases to function, much like the TV when the power goes out. On a more human level, there are all sorts of things going on. Death is an end to suffering, but it causes extreme grief in those left behind. Stories like Roald Dahl's "Lamb to the Slaughter" can make you laugh at the death and root for the killer. Movies like Simon Birch, on the other hand, can easily make you weep even when you know what's coming from the beginning. We're terrified at the risk of people dying of terrorism, cancer, or swine flu, but we seem to be uncaring that the effects of poverty lead to the deaths of many more people than any other cause.
I thought about making this a post questioning our fears about death. In the developed world, we really don't die that often. Well, I guess everyone dies the same number of times, but the death rate in these parts is pretty damn low. Heck, it's only been a brief blip in human history that the death of an infant was a surprise instead of a sadly common fact of life. We're blessed with long lives and usually die of complications of old age, yet for some reason, we seem to obsess over every little illness and poor tons of money into causes that, honestly, only affect a relatively small percentage of the population, especially those young enough to cause surprise at their death.
But that's a stupid post. It won't really change anyone's mind and saying that maybe taking a few years off of your life by consuming high-fructose corn syrup and hamburgers isn't really that big of a deal makes me look like some right-wing nut job, which I'm not. I just tend to think that since we're living long enough and well enough to die of diseases brought on by old age and wealth that we shouldn't really get too worked up over them.
Instead, I'm going to just give an example of how death is such a versatile thing. In reading about some of the deaths caused by flooding in Georgia in recent days, I came across the story of a two-year-old who drowned when his parents' trailer was washed into a swollen creek. The child was ripped from the father's arms by undercurrents in the stream and was lost. This one hits close to home. I could see myself fighting the force of the water to keep E's head up and losing the fight. It took a force of will to keep actual tears from forming.
The article then followed that story with a brief reference to a guy who was killed after swimming in an overflowing drainage ditch on a $5 dare. It's all in the details, people, and that little detail right there made everything alright. Instead of laughing, I chuckled and thought, that guy deserved it.
Doesn't change the fact that he's dead, though.