Death

The thought of death and what it means has been on my mind for over a week now.  Between the very recent loss of a forever chef, hardened kitchen survivor, and great story-teller, the not so recent loss of close family and friends, and the future loss of my own life have brought feelings of mortality to the surface of my conscience.

Dark topic?  Sure.  But it shouldn’t be as dark as we make it out to be.  Death is sad, death is final, and death leaves us with too many regrets.

Death however is an opportunity for those of us left behind to celebrate the life of a loved one or an admired one.

The sad news that Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide smacked me hard.  I’m not typically affected by celebrity deaths, but then again, I don’t normally identify with too many celebrities.

Anthony Bourdain was different.  He genuinely lived the tough industry life.  He did drugs hard, he drank hard, and he worked hard.  He was the real deal, so when he spoke of the kitchen lifestyle he spoke with more than sufficient experience to have unquestioned credibility.

Those of us in the business identified with Anthony Bourdain.  He was everyman.  He had been through all the situations and parts of kitchen life that are there to bring us down, and to destroy us.  He was strong enough to endure the drugs, alcohol, and torrid lifestyle that has taken on the appearance of urban legend.

So, we thought.  In the end something wasn’t right with Chef Bourdain.  I have no Idea what troubled him.  I’m not sure he may have known what troubled him.  I don’t know if it was an emotional issue or a chemical imbalance.  I don’t know if there was a brain malady.  We’ll likely never know.

As someone who has been in the industry for almost 20 years and had dealt with depression for as long or longer I can tell you that the disease is easy to hide, even from one’s self.  It’s easy to function, and it’s easy to lead what appears to be a normal life.  Still, something is wrong inside of you and it’s sometimes too late to find a reasonable solution.  Anthony found a solution.  It was his way out of something so dark that leaving his loved ones behind was the only way. It’s not cowardice, it’s not the easy way out.  It’s deeply sad that ending your own life is the only way.  How dark that place must be.

His death started me thinking about the reality of death.  I’ve always know about death and what it means.  It’s an obvious concept on the surface.  You’re alive, then you’re not.  In our culture however, we most commonly look at death as a terrible loss to be followed by sadness for the person we’ve lost.  The sadness can last for a lifetime.  Typically, the only comfort people can count on is the thought that “they’re in a better place.”  Heaven is a way for folks to feel better about death, a mythical place where the deceased float on clouds in eternal bliss.  I’m not buying it.  As an atheist I have decided that the best way to feel better about death is to celebrate life.

While concluding that the commemoration of life is far better and healthier than the sorrow of death I started thinking about what my life means to those I’ll leave behind. I’m scheduled for a biopsy on a new mole kind of thing on my arm and with a very strong family history of cancer I have things checked out that need checking out.  It’s likely nothing, but I haven’t pissed off enough people in my life, so I want to hang around a while longer.

My two favorite songs are Time, and Wish You Were Here.  Both by Pink Floyd

I am thankful for those who have been a part of my life.  Although I miss them I find that by celebrating the time I shared with them I can learn to appreciate the gifts they gave me.  My sister, my brother, my father, Lynne, and Anthony Bourdain all gave me something in life, and even more in death. Thank you for living, and I forgive you all for dying.

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11 thoughts on “Death

  1. That most Atheists are more anti-religion than pro-secular is telling and it’s sad. There is good religion out there among the many bad ones. And when one discovers good religion, it is life transforming. Good religion makes the world a better place. It’s too bad Bourdain didn’t find or wouldn’t choose a good religion over godlessness. Good religion may very well have given him peace and hope. Anyone that has hope, doesn’t commit suicide or turn to drugs or alcohol in a fruitless attempt drown out their hopelessness.

    I do believe in Heaven, but my Heaven and yours are not the same. My heaven is a place of deeply intimate and satisfying eternal relationships. It is a real place, with physicality (there are no ghosts in Heaven), and where there is constant creative activity, but one never gets tired. A world ever expanding and growing. A world where one has infinite time to learn and perfect new talents and skills. Heaven is also a place where animals and man are at peace with one another, “The lion will lay down with the lamb, and a little child will lead them”. There is no disease or death or pain or sadness in Heaven.

    Heaven is everything earth is not. I look forward to moving on. This place sucks, and you can keep it.

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    • I was going to write a well thought out response to your dismal and-off base comment. I was going to mention fulfilling the degree requirements for a religious studies degree from Siena College, and how I have an intimate knowledge of many of the world’s religions. I was going to mention that I spent a great many years wrestling with the reality of some god that created this world and how I fit into an apparent divine plan. I came to the conclusion that it was all a load of hooey and I have come to the conclusion that you’re full of shit. If you were strong enough in your conviction you would have not hid in the dark shadow of anonymity.

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  2. I’m not anti religion, just the Abrahamic ones. I’m an aethiest because the thought of a higher power is utterly absurd. I’ll admit that the fact that all the good stuff is bad for us smacks of someone effing with us.

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  3. As a reformed Jew we are taught that the way to honor a person is to keep them in our memory, not to hope they’ve gone on to a better place. I too am an atheist, and I embrace the concept of keeping loved ones with you through loving memories and passing those on to future generations. The less kind part of me wishes for the erasure of the Trump crew for all eternity, no record, no trace, mere dust

    Sent from my iPhone

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  4. “…the disease is easy to hide, even from one’s self.” Bingo for the unconscious! I agree about the celebration of living life. “Us and Them” ain’t bad either. Great cover of it on Jazz Sexiest Ladies Vol 1 by Shirley Adamson

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  5. Thank you Dominic for this blog – lovely and honest and true. We will never know why, but we will miss those who have gone, especially by suicide.

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