What is Death?

Every morning, weather permitting, my wife and I go for a long walk. Yesterday we went out as usual, returned to the quiet lobby of our building, and summoned the elevator to take us back up to our 8th floor apartment.

We stepped out of the elevator, turned the corner, and reflexively said ‘Good morning’ to two strangers who were standing across from the door to our elderly neighbor’s apartment. As the words passed from our lips, we both noticed the body bag on top of the gurney between them.

Our elderly neighbor had died.

Death always comes as a surprise even when we know it’s coming. It’s as much a part of life as birth. Yet, even when the deceased is an elderly gentleman who dies of natural causes, there’s something about death that feels unnatural.

We should consider the possibility that death feels unnatural because it is unnatural.

The elderly gentleman was once a strapping young man. Before that, he was a baby in his mother’s arms. During the course of his life, different bodies came and went. With each new body came a new sense of identity. But the person who inhabited those bodies and experienced those identities remained the same.

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