Grappling with Death


Many of the truths I’ve come to, I’ve come by way of the intellect. The necessary truths that I see as really close to me, I gathered because of rationality and my reasoning ability. But even as I do this, I’ve been aware that many truths I have to come to via other means, such as emotion and feeling. This is an unpleasant truth to me, because many of the truths I know I’ve gathered through reading philosophy, philosophy of which is very rational and reasoned. But some things in life are inexplicable, and you can’t easily explain it with an idea or concept. Of course, this challenges my worldview, and forces me to get out of my comfort zone. I appreciate that, but it makes some lessons painful and highly difficult.

My grandfather passed away only a few days ago. And since then, I’ve been grappling very strongly with death. Death seems cruel to me, but it also seems necessary, seeing as how death is a part of life. But that doesn’t mean that I look at death in a positive light, though I’ve been trying to do just that, to see the greater and grander purpose of something as inexplicable as death.

Obviously, I didn’t want my grandfather to die. He went in one of the worst ways possible, died by cancer. This is made even more sad by the fact that he’d already had many ailments, and cancer just compounded him. I think cancer was so cruel to him that he gave up on any will to live. Clearly, wrestling with this is very difficult, because it brings up questions of suffering. Obviously I never wanted my grandfather to suffer, and definitely didn’t want him to suffer this much.

I found out about my grandfather’s passing as I was taking a long trip on the bus, from Salt Lake to Lubbock, and I saw that he’d passed that morning, I saw it on my Facebook account. When I heard the news, I felt sad, but I also felt confused. Had my grandfather really passed, or was I reading something that was misinformed. For a moment, I was in denial, because I didn’t think that he could ever die. I knew he was headed towards death, but I honestly thought I’d have more time. We always think we have more time, but we actually don’t, in most cases, and I wish there was more I could have done to be here for my grandfather. Part of the difficulty was the long distance and figuring out how I’d pay for transportation, and it was also because I wasn’t on good terms with my family at the time. But I nonetheless felt a feeling of allegiance and compassion and love, to visit my grandfather, who I was sure I’d have so much more time with.

Dealing with the death, I posted once on my Facebook that having a loved one die leaves a space, a hole, that is impossible to feel. I saw this when my mother and Uncle picked me up, saw it in my mother for sure, who looked literally lost, and had an expression that indicated deep and utter loss. It’s hard to explain these things or intellectualize them, but the expression was there, and it was so fucking heartbreaking. I didn’t want to see this. I was sad my mother looked this way, looked this sad, because I wanted to take the pain away, but knew I couldn’t take it away. I knew in this moment there was literally nothing I could do.

I’ll never forget that look, because I understand it completely. It was the look of someone whose father had passed, the realization, the deep realization, that he was never coming back. This was the first moment where this harsh truth, of never seeing someone again, made itself apparent in my life and literally broke my heart.

I know I can’t intellectualize pain, I wrote that on my Facebook as well. You can’t intellectualize pain, grief, and loss, the same way you can philosophical concepts. We can think about death in intellectual ways, but as my mother said, it’s much more emotional. And this forces me out of my element, not because I’m out of touch with my emotions, but because I’m too close to my emotions. I am a really emotionally intense person, and even though I sometimes hide this and obscure this, I nonetheless feel it, and feel deeply. I turned to philosophy in fact, the creator of reason, as a way of coping. I needed some way to deal with all of the harsh things I was seeing in life, and philosophy helped shine a light on these deep mysteries of life.

Of course, there is a philosophy of death, though I can’t think of any prominent writers except for maybe Heidegger. And I find the philosophy of death to be comforting to some degree. But I also find it to be challenging, that the philosophy of death can’t explain feelings of loss. These feelings of loss are powerful, and they don’t necessarily get easier, though they get more manageable.

All day yesterday, I had this heavy feeling in my heart. It was sadness, but it was also something I wasn’t familiar with. I suppose it was grief and loss, feelings of grief and loss. It occurred to me that I was experiencing deep emotions dealing with such strong feelings of grief, and I wasn’t ready for it, but it was there nonetheless.

I haven’t cried since my grandfather died, but I probably will when I go back home and am no longer around family. I haven’t cried because I can’t allow myself to be that vulnerable with my family. There are many reasons why I’d cry, one reason being that I miss my grandfather, another feeling because I acknowledge what this means for me and for my family, and even a third reason, trying to understand suffering and the nature of death, and what these things mean for me. I’m staying in the room where my grandfather stayed, out of all places, and I feel the loss significantly. It’s quite a loss, and I can’t explain it, but … I feel the absence. I feel someone is gone, and even when I’m not aware of this consciously, I’m aware of it subconsciously, even unconsciously. And it is a painful feeling.

Because I’m an empath, I also experience the emotions of the people around me. My grandmother is devastated. My mother is trying to stay strong so she can be a support. My father is not really grieving, but it’s painful for me to see him because it’s family. My Uncle hasn’t been in the best shape, either, and I understand why.

I’ve had good experiences with my mother since I’ve been here. We’ve connected on this loss, which, as I’ve been saying, I feel deeply.

I’m grappling with death, and I can’t deny it. My grandfather was a loved one, and I never, ever wanted to see him suffer. I in fact, especially the last few years, as I got to know him more, wanted to see him live a very happy life, which seemed out of his reach, because he suffered so much with physical diseases. I remember when I’d called him, and talk about philosophy, to try to get his mind off of the pain. I’d talk philosophy, I’d talk Descartes, Sartre, Spinoza, to try and get him to think about something else. I always felt this didn’t really work, however, and this made me infinitely sad.

My grandfather called for me before he died. I was very sad because I didn’t make it in time to see him before he passed. This may have been a good thing. The photos I saw of him on his dying bed were heartbreaking, and I’m not sure I could have handled it. But I still wish I could have seen him one more time. And especially because he called for me, I wish I could have made it. But it just didn’t work out. But it means a lot to me that he called my name, and this is because it means I made even a small impact in his life for the better. My grandfather taught me that there are many gray areas in life, and while I didn’t agree with everything my grandfather did, he was loved by many, and he was a good person in many respects.

In all actuality, I don’t really understand the nature of death, and suffering. These things remain inexplicable, and this is because I don’t even understand the nature of my own suffering. I don’t know why I feel pain, I don’t know why I feel the intense feelings that I do, I don’t know why I experience mental illness. This is one lesson I’ve tried to pass on to my family, is the idea, of how powerful and strong the mind is, how important thought is, even if we take it for granted.

Everything that happens to us, we like to think it happens for a reason. But seemingly, sometimes, it doesn’t.


Sometimes, there is just suffering. Sometimes, there is just sadness. We can’t explain it all with the intellect.


Experiencing this death makes me more cognizant of the songs that some of my favorite rock bands sing about: songs about the death of a loved one, a special one.

I have to be honest, I didn’t have the kind of relationship with my grandfather that I wish I did. We didn’t always connect on things. But he’d tell me, in so many ways, that meant the world to me, that he was proud of me. He was proud of what I was doing with my life, he was proud of the fact that I was a writer, and that I was able to do what he couldn’t. I wrote books, and I wrote intelligent books, and that meant the world to him. I’ll never forget this. It’s because of the support of my family that I write my books. Because I know they care, and if they care, maybe others, such as readers, will care.

Truth be told, I don’t know what happens when we die, as no one does. It’s hard for me to imagine blackness, darkness. The appeal to the Christian Heaven is that we’re going to be reunited with our loved ones. I don’t necessarily believe that, though my agnosticism makes me at least entertain the idea. I’m more likely to believe, though, that my grandfather is at least no longer suffering. If he only sees darkness, that’s fine, because he will at least rest in peace. And I think that he will be happy where’s he’s at. He’s no longer suffering.

I guess this is how I deal with the pain of loss. I accept that my grandfather is out of this painful world. Truth be told, I think he provided a unique perspective on life, and I will never forget when he told me that every argument has a solution. I interpreted this as an argument with other people, as well as a formal, logical argument. And truth be told, I cherish the uniqueness of my family, even if there is a lot of pain. I cherish the fact that to me, we only have this one life, and we need to engage so deeply with this life. As my friend Tracy has been saying, life is so short and so precious, and I want to see myself appreciate that: really engage with life, don’t seek to understand it all, just feel it.

Because, we’re okay. In the end, we no longer suffer.


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