It's something those of us who write murder mysteries do on a fairly regular basis. If you think of a murder victim as merely a plot point and miss the concept that this was a person whose life was ended prematurely and unnaturally, you are going to write a shallow, uninteresting, uninvolving story about plot points and not people. So in the course of writing about a death (or two) for the upcoming Book #5 in the Haunted Guesthouse Mystery series (Here's the cover for Book #4!), I have been giving the concept of death a great deal of thought for the past few weeks, and I have reached a profound conclusion about the end of life.
I'm against it.
Fact is, I think about death a lot even when I'm not working on a mystery novel. I've been overcome with the subject, although always negatively, for as long as I can remember, which gets longer all the time. My mother recalls me as a small child having what might now be classified as night terrors because I would lie in bed and ruminate on the fact that someday, no matter how far off, there would be an end to this life. She refers to it, shaking her head, as "a four-year-old boy who thought he was going to die."
That's not what I was at all. It was much worse than that. I was a four-year-old boy who KNEW he was going to die. It didn't matter that such an occurrance would be at least fifty one years away (so far); the inevitability of it was appalling, the permanence terrifying, and the knowledge of it agony.
No, I'm not talking zombie apocalypse. Lord, that would be dull. I mean scientists have looked at the process of aging and dying, thrown their hands up in the air (not literally) and said, "Welp," (Yes, I think scientists use words like "welp") "there's nothing we can do about that."
Man. What a bunch of quitters.
We need to take action against death immediately. Certainly before I get any older. I mean, here's a terminal condition that affects a complete 100% of the population, and we're not even doing research into ways it can be reversed or eliminated? Polio was a horrible disease, but it didn't have those kinds of numbers and look what happened. Cured. The vaccine worked. Cancer is a scourge on the population, but at least there are legions of doctors devoting their entire lives to wiping it out. But death? Is there an American Death Society trying to stamp it out? There is not.
Personally, I think something needs to be done. It could be argued that I have been writing mystery novels in an attempt to conquer death, to control it and bend it to my will. Maybe I can feel better about it (and you might to if you go out and buy one of my books, never a bad idea), but I can't take any practical action against the enemy. I got a D in high school biology.and would have failed chemistry if I hadn't dumped the course and transferred into journalism, a career move of questionable practicality.
I had a birthday a couple of weeks ago and it occurred to me that I'm closer to the end than the beginning by a decent margin now (yes, my mind still works like that, and no, there's no hope that I'm going to develop a sunnier attitude or be able to live in the moment). So there's no time to waste. Because as important as your life is to you, it can be reasonably assumed that I'm way more terrified of the Grim Reaper, having built up all this experience in dreading.
Every entertainer has a way of dealing with the Big D. Bergman had death walk around on a beach and play chess with people. (Bergman was a nut.) Mary Shelley figured out a way to make a guy out of dead parts, but that didn't bring the people from whom he was configured back to life, so what good was it? Countless zombie movies have assumed that if a person were to be regenerated, he'd be unable to move quickly, lose most of the power of speech, and have a hunger for brains. Sure.
I say, we need to get moving on this. Stop death before it stops you, I say. Or more specifically, before it stops me.
A person has to have priorities.