When my youngest brother Eddie died in 2015, I quadrupled my shoe collection overnight. Despite our inside legs being inches different (I got the brains and he got the height and the beauty), our shoe sizes were fortuitously similar. We shared a taste for converse trainers, and so there seemed to be the tiniest of silver linings in this shittest of events. But, of course, the universe loves to shit where it eats, and whilst Eddie may no longer exist, the remnants of a serious fungal infection remained. So I found myself striken by both grief and athletes foot (ironic as I am the least athletic person there is). Thanks a lot Eddie (or Deadie as I came to refer to him during this period)!
But funny really. Eddie was an atheist and obviously I’m one too. But here, imprinted in the soles of his shoes (geddit) were the last living remains of my brother. Fitting really, as in life Eddie was a bit of a parasite. But the real question at the heart of this post is, does that bring me comfort? Death has peculiar effects on people. Most obviously don’t know what to say at, what can be, a distressing time. Okay so some of you believe you’re going to meet each other again. But for me (and Eddie) that’s it. You live, you die. I say fairly frequently that Eddie exists now in the same way that Santa Claus exists. Is that unfair? Some rebut: “But he did exist!”. Well no shit Sherlock. But he doesn’t anymore. He is non-existent. The end.
So then others respond: “Remember energy is never lost. His energy remains!” Wow. I love this one. Many of the elements in our bodies were forged in the fires of supernovae. But when we get on a bus we don’t turn to the stranger next to us and say, “Oh, lovely to see you again! How long’s it been? A billion years? Really? So long? How’s Harold?” Just because our constituents existed before us, doesn’t mean there is any existential connection there. The chemical energy in Eddie was mostly burned away in the crematorium. Released as heat. And?
Never again will we meet each other. He will remain 33. I will grow older. He doesn’t exist out there waiting to meet us again. He stopped existing on the day he died, and he never will exist again. Yes we have memories, and shoes which may still contain spores of a fungal infection yet-to-be. But these are the smallest of crumbs, and they offer little sustenance. I truly do wish that things were different. That we did meet our loved ones again after we die. But such a hope is nothing more than an existential grabbing at air. Believe it, if it helps you get through the day. But it isn’t true. And that does make a difference. To me anyhow.Go Top