An End to the Dream — The Dreamer Awakens

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By Francis A. Wilson—

Photographs are funny things aren’t they? Depending on the kind of photograph and the quality, a photograph can be a kind of window into the lives of people and events long since passed. It is in this way that photographs are unique. What’s that old saying, “one photograph is worth a thousand words”, and it is true. But, photographs also evoke emotions, a wellspring of emotions crossing the whole spectrum of feeling. Photographs are snippets of time, captured on paper. They mark the past, and everything that once was, in perfect detail. But even photographs fade, much like the memories they represent, they age, become brittle, fade, and get forgotten. Nothing lasts forever.

There is an unfortunate aspect to photographs, however, that inevitably remind us of one thing – that we are not immortal and we to must pass on. They ultimately remind us of death. They remind us of the constant change that we undergo on a regular basis, how far removed we are from our own photographs, and the toll that time collects from us all. They remind us, and force us to think about not only death, but our own deaths. The sad fact of it is that we are not immortal. We must die. And, eventually we will all die. Even the stars above hanging luminously in the heavens above fade and perish. Nothing is forever.

Death is that unfortunate part of life that everyone must face, but most choose not to. Death gets ignored in order to preserve the false sense of invulnerability. Who doesn’t like to feel like they are invulnerable, and that they have so much more life to live? When in reality everything can be taken away in a blink of the eye.

Death has existed longer than the sum total of all human existence, and will exist longer. In the beginning, there was nothing. And, eventually everything that lives must die and return to that nothingness. Life is a fragile thing and can end in any number of ways. This is no more apparent today then every before with the bombings in Boston, the various school shootings like Columbine, and violent related deaths occurring worldwide. If you really stop and think about it, which is at the root of the problem because let’s face it no one likes to think about it and would prefer to ignore it, people are dying everywhere just about every second of the day.

According to Ecology.com 55.3 million people die per day, 151,600 people die each day, and 6,316 people die each hour. So what does that mean? It means that people are dying at the rate of 105 people per minute, or nearly two people every second worldwide. Apparently, the average life expectancy at birth is 67 years according to the Population Reference Bureau and The World Factbook (Central Intelligence Agency).

The leading causes of death can vary, but generally are the same. Heart disease is the leading cause of death weighing in around 597, 689, and followed by cancer which weighs in around 574, 743. The other leading cause may include but are not limited to: chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, accidents, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis, influenza, and intentional self-harm. Among them, suicide rings in with the lowest total with only 38, 364 deaths. All of this is according to www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm. At least suicide rates are low. How can they not be when people around the world are dropping like flies, not mention the fact that we are so efficient at killing each other.

But those are just numbers. Numbers don’t have faces, and numbers are easy to ignore and dismiss. Death doesn’t really matter if it doesn’t hit close to home, so the thought of death with or without the numbers mean little. The fact of the matter is that death takes its toll on thousands of people each and every day. And, death has a face. Or, at the very least, death’s face has a mirror image that comes through and can be seen on the face of those who are left in the wake of death. Death’s face as it exists on the face of human kind is not a pretty one. Death’s face that shines through the face of all human existence is that of the sum total of all grief, loss, anger, depression, and rage. All of the suffering is summed up in this face, and the aftermath can be devastating. And, to think that this only accounts for human related deaths and the suffering their deaths leave behind.

Each person is an individual and therefore experiences death in his or her own way, but in each case one thing is certain. There has to be some kind of coping mechanic involved, or some way to process and deal with death. Obviously, something other than just ignoring the problem and bottling up the emotions that death evokes.

“That which bestows on everything tragic its peculiar elevating force,” Arthur Schopenhauer from his book The World as Will and Representation, “is the discovery that the world, that life, can never give real satisfaction and hence is not worthy of our affection: this constitutes the tragic spirit – it leads to resignation.”

Acceptance is at the heart of the equation when considering coping with death, but is the last step in the process. According to the Kübler-Ross model of coping, there are seven stages. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. How can this be? How can the act of dealing with death be boiled down to seven simple steps? Generally speaking of course, these are the average response to death for an ordinary person. And, each step can take as long as it is needed in order to proceed to the next step which can vary from individual to individual, and even between the sexes.

But, in order to first understand coping and dealing with death, death should be understood first. This is where the complications come in because there is no definitive answer to the enigma that is death. However, the act of death is fairly simply. The act of death itself is broken down into several stages.

• Cessation of breathing

• Cardiac arrest (no pulse)

• Pallor mortis, paleness which happens in the 15–120 minutes after death

• Livor mortis, a settling of the blood in the lower (dependent) portion of the body

• Algor mortis, the reduction in body temperature following death. This is generally a steady decline until matching ambient temperature

• Rigor mortis, the limbs of the corpse become stiff (Latin rigor) and difficult to move or manipulate

• Decomposition, the reduction into simpler forms of matter, accompanied by a strong, unpleasant odor.

This is what death is in terms of the act. The real definition of death has yet gone undefined, or at the very least, undefined by those who are still among the living. Understanding the facts about death can lead to an easier coping process, but in the end it really represents a dehumanizing view. Human beings are more than just flesh and meat. And, it is this essence and the departure thereof that is difficult to let go of and cope with.

Each person is different. And, people have different ways in dealing with death and coping with the after effect. People are funny, and coincidently, so can the methods by which someone can deal with death, let alone what can come from the passing of loved ones.

“There is a reason to live in this world. You don’t just meet people accidently run into somebody. I don’t believe in coincidences. You were meant to meet the person for whatever it is, to change their life, or to direct them to where they are going to go. Or, someday they are going to look back and say that they have learned something from you,” said Dorothy Roszkowski, senior clerk for the city of Bayonne and part time employee for the Bayonne Public Library, Bayonne, age 55, “I truly believe that things are connected. That is how I live my life.”

After a story that began with the death of both her parents at a young age, first her mother dying of cancer and her father following shortly, Dorothy Roszkowski came away from death with more than most.

She paints a portrait of a life torn apart by death and loss, but a life ultimately that walked away with more than death could take. She came away with an innate ability to foresee death, and somehow gained the ability to predict who had died almost at the instant of departure of the person in question and the ability to tell whether or not someone is in the process of dying or is about to die from the simplest of things like a handshake.

Dorothy’s life was devastated by the loss of her parents, but that wasn’t they weren’t the only people she lost because of their deaths. She also lost both her younger sisters. They didn’t die, but rather, were split up and put in foster homes. For the better part of Dorothy’s life, she spent most of those years in and out of school, in and out of foster homes, and on and off of the streets. Even with all of this, she can remember vividly the day her parents came back to her. She recounts an incident early on in her life where she was visited by the essences of her parents at a friend’s house a few years after their deaths.

“I heard this voice; I’ll tell you one thing the voice was beautiful. It was telling me not to worry and that everything is going to be alright.”

After hearing the voice her parents were appeared, “and they were standing right there at the bedside. They were right there. They were beautiful.” They had appeared as she had likely remembered them, in a way or fashion that they had once existed in prior to death and prior to the toll years of smoking had taken on her mother. Her mother subsequently died of cancer at the age of 36, “she looked 90 when she finally died.”

As a result of the death of his wife, her father fell apart under the strain of dealing with three young girls and followed shortly after.

Nevertheless, something unique happened. Whether or not her parents appeared to Dorothy is not as important as the result of the act. The message from her parents was the important thing.

“I know they were telling me that they will always love me, but you have to let us go now.”

“You must be able to keep a spirit here. And, as a kid, I didn’t mean to do that, I just missed them so much.”

What is also interesting to note is that the occurrence happened to each sister at some point during their lives’ as well.

The need to cope, and to deal with the emotions regarding the passing of loved ones is profound. And, this need is possibly even powerful enough to pull them back long enough to settle the tumultuous emotions boiling within regarding the passing. Or, perhaps it simply stems from the mind, and the minds need to deal with stress.

“I think that there are two feelings that people need to allow themselves to express. And, the first one is the pain of the loss, and then the second one is the anger at losing something,” Dr. Ansley Lamar, New Jersey City University Professor and Psychologist, “and what I find interesting, people will be angrier at losing their watch then they would at losing someone who was close in their lives. And this culture, we don’t fell entitles or appropriate to feel angry when somebody dies.”

Psychologically speaking, death can cause a range of emotions and anger is definitely one of them. Dr. Lamar goes on to state that this is because we often feel angry at the deceased because they left us. This is natural. Anger is just another emotion tangled up within the web of the coping process.

In either situation regarding death or the emotions that bombard our hearts after someone has passed, the fact remains that death impacts the living in profound and powerful ways unique to the individual. And, death is more than just a personal experience; it is a global one as well. Death is a strange and enigmatic part of life, one that will be with us until we die, and long after.

Life is a dream, to which has only one wakening, death. Death is the space or part of the dream just before the dreamer abruptly awakens and the dream dies. Life is just an extension of the dream. Life is what happens during the waking hours between dreams, man’s attempt to bring dreams to reality. That is life. Death is just the succession of dreams, and of dreaming. Death is the eternal sleep, without end, without waking, and without dreams. This is why death is feared. This is what makes the thought of death so frightening. It is the finality of it that really scares people. God is not dead. God is sleeping, and we die when he wakes, living then in imitation and recreation of Gods own dreams.

 

Another Frank Wilson story “My Buddy’s Gone: A Look at What’s After”