As a child, death, to me, was just a synonym of end. It was a conclusion. A finish, a resolution, an outcome. When I heard that somebody died, I felt only a passing sadness. It was how I’d learned to react; it meant nothing to me.
One day, when I was about ten, the reality of death slammed into me with an extreme and sudden fury. I was playing Barbies with my sister.
“And then,” said my sister, referring to one of the dolls, “she died.”
Usually I wouldn’t have really thought about the character dying. She was just a doll, after all, and death was only an outcome. But that one statement, that one plot suggestion by an eight-year-old, grabbed hold of me and refused to let go. The reality of death became painfully, intensely clear, throbbing like a headache after getting new glasses. That doll had dreams, hopes, and aspirations that were swept into oblivion by the winds of death, loved ones with wells of deep love that were flooded with the rushing waters of grief. Death was not a single end. It was an end to millions of possibilities, memories, experiences, thoughts, and emotions.
“No,” I responded. “She doesn’t die.”