Life is a merry-go-round, and we are all looking inward.

But time and decay eventually have their way with us and our senses are dulled, our beauty fades, and we can no longer hold to it. We’ve solved every need of man except the one that matters most; so in the face of death and our own inability to prevent it, we do the only thing we know to do–ignore it. Just as we ignore those who are slipping into the inevitable night as centrifugal force pulls them from the ride. We turn our heads from them as they tumble backward into the blur that does not move, that we cannot see full on but only catch glimpses from the corners of our eyes.

We cannot bear to see the ugly face and bulged eyes, the feeble hands that can no longer fulfill their mortal obligation. Instead, we turn our backs on death, that mystery of lying still, believing somehow that our hands will outlast its pull or hoping that someone will pull us back from its brink.

But we cannot hold on forever.

The day will come when we are hanging at the edge, holding with all our strength, the pull stronger than it’s ever been, and suddenly everything slows down, moments before you let go. And in those moments before your hands refuse to hold any longer, you look around at everyone else and realize that they’re not looking at you, their eyes are turned inward, unable or at least unwilling to believe that they too will someday lose their grip on life and plunge headlong into…

So there is a sensibility and a courtesy in facing death.

The sagging eyes, the soiled beds, the incoherent mumbling. All signs of our mortality, afflicted people who once had a firm grasp on life as though they’d never lose it, and in our fear of death we abandon them to solitude rather than come face to face with the fact of death. Lock them away, cover them up, put them out of our line of sight and pretend they don’t exist, like there is no end to this round-and-round.

Of course, we hear of death and dying every day, but it’s thousands of people dying on a television screen somewhere else but here. At a funeral, when we pay death a personal visit, we’re all perplexed and out of sorts because the concept is so forgotten to us. Where has our loved one gone? the people say but don’t wonder. We look at his picture and think of him as if he is away on a journey and will return in short order. He never does, but we’re too busy to notice. If we had stopped for a moment, turned our head to watch him slip away, held his hand for the final fleeting moments, formed kind words with our lips as he tumbled effortlessly into the truth we all must face, perhaps we could appreciate life as it really is–a brief and blessed vapor.