by Anastasia Strgar
“All goes onward and outward. Nothing collapses. And to die is different than what anyone supposed… And luckier. They are alive and well somewhere, the smallest sprout shows there really is no death and if ever there was, it lead forward to life…” -Walt Whitman
This is one of my favorite quotes about death, for it transforms the thought of death from one of fear of endings into a joyous memorial of life. Although death is as natural a part of life as birth, somehow we’ve connected death with the idea of an ending. The concept of the afterlife is so foreign to all us living, that the thought of dying and having to face the unknown brings incredible fear to our hearts.
To combat this fear, we choose to not talk about or think about death. We throw ourselves into a world of constant running toward the next thing, the bigger thing, the better thing and sadly, we are left with little time to slow down and appreciate what’s right in front of us. However, death, death of a friend, pet, or community member can make us pause for a moment, look around and realize how blessed we really are.
The relatively small community of Eugene, Ore has faced several untimely deaths over this last year. This past weekend as I was getting Arlo ready for his 3-week journey we were faced with death once again. Saturday afternoon, a 20-year-old man died in a jet ski accident on an annual camping trip that many of Arlo’s friends attend. Time seemed to stand still as we attempted to process the tragic death of a guy we barely knew.
Arlo went on a run and when he came back he merely said, “That run was for Shea.” He went on to say that as he stood looking up at the sky, he realized that he really wants to work on appreciating his life for what it is. We then had a discussion about daily gratitude, living in the present, and accepting that no one really knows what’s going to happen next.
Often times when people die we try to figure out why- particularly when their deaths result from tragic accidents or suicides. I remember when I was a senior in high school, a kid that was in my extended community passed away suddenly. A supposed suicide, I cried for weeks, at loss for understanding why a boy of 17 would take his own life. But ultimately, what Arlo said was correct: death makes us wake up to the glory that is all around us.
So in tribute to Shea and all those who have gone before him, let’s make it a goal to live more fully in the present, to be grateful for those we love most and to not want anything more than we have. Ultimately, at any given moment we have exactly what we need. And in those last moments, we will not be thinking about our next raise, that house down the street or who made us angry- we will be thinking about who we love and every single reason we love them.
Anastasia Strgar, a recent graduate from the University of Oregon with a B.A in journalism, has been writing about love and relationships for several years. She has written short stories and romance novels, penned the love and sex column in the school newspaper and wrote several blogs. As the eldest of founder Wendy Strgar’s four children, she has been inspired by watching her parents’ marriage and strives to put those lessons to use in her own relationship. She believes that teaching her peers early on about how to maintain healthy relationships is essential to creating a future generation of loving partnerships. She currently works as the Director of Public Relations and Magazine Editor at Good Clean Love.