Death is our life’s work.

Someone dear to me died at 3:10AM on Saturday, July 17, 2021.

She was also one of an estimated 178,000 people who died on earth that same day.*

By that measure, some 7400 people died in the same hour, and 120 within the same minute.

One other person on earth died the very second she did.

Because of our bond, her death was uncommon. What strikes me, though, is how common an occurrence death was that day.

What distinguishes her? What distinguishes any of us?

For most of us, death is personal. If I had been among the 120 people who died between 3:10 and 3:11AM on that day, however, and if for an instant we all somehow found ourselves in the same place, there’s so much I’d want to know. 

Above all:

Who are you now? How did you know you were dead?

I could ask the same questions of myself, while I’m alive.

Who am I now? How do I know I’m alive? 

And any attempt to answer invites a connection with others.

The hallmark of our humanity is what we share. Our lives vary, but the fact of our death unites us. For most, though, death is only real when it’s imminent. Until then, we keep it at arm’s length. 

Fear grows in the gap I keep between me and what I know is inevitable.

Or, my life can close that gap. After all, every day I’m closer.

I know I will die; a good friend just reminded me. And I know that the second I die, I will not be alone.

*Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Bioethics Research Library

Photo credit: Michael Sendbuehler

Scott Plate

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