When someone dies, no matter how extended their extended family or how round their circle of friends, or how few, if any, they have of friends or family, there is always a void. Death is a void and leaves a void no matter what the nature of the person who dies. What can fill that void? Can anything? Can anyone? No matter what people say after someone dies, no matter what customs they continue, what piece of furniture they sit on, what phrase they utter or what situation they recall, they will always bump into that void, like a great bubble preventing things to ever be the same. The void is like the unwanted guest, the friend that comes to dinner uninvited, the rain on the picnic, the dog that just wont’ stop barking in the middle of the night. We can pretend it’s not there, smile and shrug it off. We can avoid certain places and situations, even seasons and people, but that void will always hang over us, lurking, the same way that death does around every corner for everyone. The void is as unavoidable as…death.
And so we deny, we rage, we grieve, but that void can never and will never be filled. It is the black hole in our earthly existence. It is the cosmos come down to invade our minute lives. But the void will always remind us that life is short because we are all mortal. It will always shake us and force us to smile, love, appreciate, be grateful and make every moment count as if it were our last, because it could be our last. We all die. We just don’t know when. We all leave a void, we just never know how big and for how many. Can any of us really know how many lives we’ve touched. We know family and friends but do we know all the strangers we have changed forever? All the kind words and gestures, the charity and smiles, the door held, the hello, the thank you, the “you were here first” that make a life difference for people we may never see again? We don’t, but that is the beauty of life. That is the wonder of the miracle of life that can never be erased by the void of death.
It is almost inconceivable to imagine a face, to see it before us, a face that had once spoke to us and us to it. A face that once laughed and spoke our name is now deadly silent. A body and life that was full of energy and electricity, that spoke its mind and was always honest, if not blunt, but always true. How can that face, that body, that life, just cease to be? It is all part of the human condition. It is the tragedy and inevitability of death that keeps our heart pumping and the thought of the void never far from our minds. As long as we know we could die at any second, our mind and heart will strive to live to the fullest and not ever give up; to keep hoping, dreaming, loving, making memories, taking chances, lunging for opportunities because we know the void is always there, waiting to take us, to end us, so we must strive to thwart it with every ounce of our being.
As long as I can remember, my friend who died recently and left a void had always had white hair. Maybe he was born with white hair. Maybe he was a wizard. Maybe he was never of this world to begin with, which is why he left it and us so early. Nonetheless, he left a void and his family, my family, will never be the same. But the memories he made while he was alive and the kindness he showed to me and my family will never be forgotten. One thing the void cannot erase or obliterate is the memories of the one it took. Memories are like ideas: They can never die. They might fade and be put up on a shelf like an old book, only to be taken out on holidays or special occasions. But one word, one sight, one scent, one color, even one split second can bring them all flooding back in again and with those rekindled memories, the life that is contained in them lives on, forever.
We all must die and leave a void because life must go on and others must have the chance to live, to make memories, to make families, to make an impression, to touch millions of other lives, to shine out bright before it is extinguished. But eternity lives on in the memories of those who have died. Memories are the life blood of our history and we pass them on down to our children, who make new memories while never forgetting the ones their parents have made. We can’t hide under a rock to try to avoid death, to avoid the void. We cannot go about in fear. We must take life head on into our future and make the most of it while we can. Life is not fair or easy, but it is our own, it is what we make of it, and how solid we build it will make it that much more invincible when the void comes to take it.
Words and photo copyright 2016 by Eddie Edwards.