Monday, November 23, 2009

Undisturbed by Death

So, on friday night, I blogged on my Tumblr (where I put funny pictures and short pieces) about, well, read:

Went for a walk to clear my head and instead got a mind-full.

Let me just begin by saying that physically a walk was probably a bad idea, but sometimes mental health has to take precedence. I needed some fresh air.

I walked down the alley beside by building with my dog, and came upon a lone policeman standing over a man lying unmoving on his back in front of a dumpster in a parking lot. The police officer was putting on rubber gloves.

Normally, I would assume this was someone who had passed out drunk, but I’d never seen the rubber glove thing before. So I don’t know, maybe he was dead. I kept walking - what could I do? When I came back around I saw an ambulance leaving the parking lot followed by a police cruiser - no lights flashing on either. So either the guy was stable, or he was dead. He might be the first dead body I’ve ever seen.

My emotional reaction was to hope that he was just a passed out drunk like the guy I’d found laying sprawled on his stomach in my building’s front foyer at 6 am a few years ago. But if he was dead, how sad. And I shouldn’t tell my mother about this. And how would I find out if he was a ‘body’ rather than a ‘man’. Google Alerts. I’m going to set one up when I’m done writing this. It seems important to know if I walked by a dead body half a block from my building, you know?

Anyway, so instead of clearing my head, I got a brain full of thoughts about mortality and sadness. I don’t know if I will ever lose the image of that policeman getting ready to bend down over this man in a deserted parking lot. It was so quiet and desolate. No fuss, no crowd, no people running here and there, no police cruiser (yet), no yellow tape, no paramedics, no noise. Just two men in a dark parking lot. And I felt for that policeman, what a sad duty this would be, and I wanted to ask if I could help him.

I didn’t feel spooked or chilled or creeped out whatsoever. I don’t know what that means. Maybe it means the man was just asleep. I hope so.

Since then, I've watched my Google Alerts, but didn't expect to hear much until after the weekend was over (i.e. today). Indeed, a local friend of mine on Facebook posted under my Tumblr piece that she'd heard a guy WAS killed downtown friday night. It turns out it was not the man I saw, but a much younger man who was murdered outside of a bar quite a bit further down the street (most recent news story). Hmmm, can I put up a map?

Ok MapQuest won't let me put stars where I want them so I'll do this the hard way. The red star is where I live. Half a block east up Halls Lane is where I saw my man on the ground with the cop. The murder victim was found near Scott Street and Market Lane, much further East. Scott Street is 5 blocks east of my apartment building, and then 2 1/2 blocks north is Market Lane.

So. Obviously still pretty close to my apartment. Waterloo Region is NOT a high crime area, so this is pretty unusual. It's only the fourth homicide this year in the whole region, which also includes the city of Waterloo and surrounding areas.

I still don't know what happened with the man I saw, but I assume he was just passed out and they carted him off to detox. That kind of thing isn't so unusual around here. Downtown Kitchener is full of drunk people on the weekends, and there are a lot of seedy bars, alcoholics, and quite a few homeless people. The man I saw did not look homeless, but sometimes you can't tell. There was no taping off of the scene where I'd seen him, so it wasn't a crime. Either he's fine, or he just died "peacefully". Still, if he was dead, I should've heard about it in the news.

My point in writing this post is to analyse my reaction to this whole thing. As you can see on Friday, I found it a blog-worthy event, but even then I was kind of surprised at my lack of strong emotion. Sadness, yes, but that was already there even before I went for my walk - it was the REASON I took my walk. But the thought that I might have seen a dead man didn't bother me as much as I expected. And in the days since, I've looked at my Google Alerts with apprehension, but only because I expected to finally have a reaction if I found out he WAS dead. But now I don't think that would happen.

I honestly expected to dwell on what happened Friday night. I expected to be confronted with mortality and have some deep thoughts about it. But it just rolled off me like it was something I saw every day. Don't get me wrong, I still have that image I talked about in my head, questions. No emotional crisis, no deep thoughts about life and death and meaning. Why?

Then I started thinking, I spent nearly twenty years of my life thinking about death in a very serious way every single day. Specifically, I thought about myself dead. I wanted to die every day, and most of that time I wanted to do it to myself. Even since the day a few years ago I decided that no matter what, suicide is not an option and so I'd stop thinking about it, I admit I have thought about it. When you live with a chronic illness that gets progressively worse, you learn to live day by day. But sometimes on your worst days, when you are in so much pain and nothing helps, or you are so fatigued you can't even eat, you think that death would be such a relief. Sometimes I think about what would happen if I got even ten percent sicker - I would not be able to care for myself and it seems my only option would be to go live in a home. That thought makes me want to die too. But those are just bad days.

So death has been a constant companion to me for my whole adult life. Death is not startling, or forbidden, or turned away from. I've stared death in the face too many times to be afraid of it.

And then there is my spirituality. I do believe there is more to existence than this flesh and blood life. I do think that my consciousness, or spiritual energy, or soul (whatever you call it) will survive, even if its just going to be dispersed into the energy of the universe. Nothing is lost, energy-wise. I don't know will happen to the person I call "me", but I do believe my experiences will be consolidated or kept somehow. So there's nothing lost but the material, and I have come a long way in my ability to let material things go. I can grieve for them, but I accept their impermanence in my life and in existence. My body is just one of those impermanent things.

It is sad when people die, for the ones who remain. They will grieve their loss - but even loss is impermanent. We are interconnected, we are One with all that is, therefore, everything that is and will be belongs to us and we to it. There is no loss in that sense.

So maybe these things are the reasons I haven't felt disturbed by this event like I expected. Or, maybe I've just watched too many episodes of CSI and Law & Order.


I sometimes write things that I don't really mean or believe. These are not to be taken literally, nor as definitive statements about me or my beliefs. Thoughts and emotions are transient, and I reserve the right to change my mind, generalize, exaggerate, give strong opinions, or write other possibly offensive statements. I don't lie, but I may say something that's not true to check whether I believe it or not, or to make a point. Call it creative license. This is my blog, and do have the right to say what I want. I'm using it in creatively therapeutic ways. Whatever the reader may think of me and my words, please believe that my core intentions are always good and I never willingly hurt anyone.