Friday 20 February 2015

Dead Like Me

I came across this show one day when my dad and brother were watching it in the lounge room. I'd never heard of it but I was curious and bored so I sat down with them and went through a few episodes.

Dead Like Me is about death, ultimately, but it's also about living. It features a group of people from various walks of life who have been chosen as grim reapers and are given daily reap quotas to meet. It's a satirical look at death and being a grim reaper, but it also focuses on how fleeting life really is and how in a moment, everything can really change before you have a chance to stop it.

The central character, Georgia (George) Lass was killed by a toilet which came catapulting down from the space station in a flaming ball of fire.

She was only 18 and left behind a semi-dysfunctional relationship with her mother, a sister who adored her and the rest of her life.

When people are chosen to be grim reapers, they return to earth and 'live' as normal people except for the fact that they're dead and their physical appearance differs from what they looked like when they were alive so as not to arouse suspicion.

As humorous as it is to watch the funny side of death, it also makes you stop and think about mortality. In each case that the reapers take the souls of the living, it's more often than not from some freak accident which could have been easily prevented if only something had changed moments or seconds earlier.

Although I haven't watched the show in a few years and just saw the movie a few days ago, I don't recall many, if any, episodes where the person about to die suffered from a long-term illness.

In the movie the deaths were caused by things like choking on what they thought was a lolly but was really just a rock, drowning, a car accident, and someone tripping over a life support cable which knocked it out.

Another part of reaping is the gremlins that 'assist' the reapers. You could easily see them as evil creatures for essentially instigating the death, but they're really only doing their job and it's that person's time to go.

No one likes death, even the reapers aren't very fond of their jobs, but they accept that it's a part of life and just get on with it.

As someone who has lost some people that I was very close to from a young age, I can understand, to some extent. It's one thing to accept that death is a part or rather the end of life, it's another thing to deal with it when it actually happens and personally affects you.

My paternal grandmother was the first person I lost. I was only 9 when she died from cancer which had spread too late to start treatment. I'd been told that when Jesus returned he'd raise her from the dead, but at 9 years old, I didn't care about waiting for however long it took for some guy from a religious book to bring her back, I wanted her back now.

It was too hard for me to comprehend that the woman who'd been a pillar of love and strength in my life for 9 years wasn't living and I would never see her again. I didn't care about the kingdom because it seemed so far away and despite what everyone told me, there was no guarantees about it. No one gave me a fixed date or time, it was always 'soon'. I wasn't good with the virtue of patience and this was definitely no exception.

When my maternal grandfather died 3 years later from old age it was a similar deal. Everyone told me he was a good and faithful man who lived his life doing what he loved and served God dutifully so there was no doubt he would be raised from the dead. Again, although I knew people meant well, it wasn't a great consolation to me. He was someone else I'd greatly admired and respected who I'd never see again.

As much pain and heartbreak as death brings with it, there's also a sense of relief especially if the deceased has been ill or elderly.

Before my maternal grandmother died a few years ago, we all knew she was frail and it was only a matter of time before she too passed on. I remember going to visit her at the nursing home she and my grandfather moved into when I was 8 or 9 and she remained until her death. Every time I'd visit her and she looked so frail I'd worry about her dying because I didn't want to lose another grandparent.

Over the years we got a few calls from the nursing home advising that she'd come down with a bad cough or something and as a health precaution they'd admitted her to hospital. When mum told me the news each time, I'd try to remain calm even though I started fearing the worst. Mum would tell me that grandma would be fine and it was just a precaution, but it didn't stop me getting upset.

When it was close to time, mum called me up at work one day clearly upset and told me the nurses had said they weren't sure if my grandmother would last the night so we all went to see her and say goodbye. But she did, just. I got a call on the way to work the next morning saying she'd passed around 8am. I was sad but relieved. The call I'd been dreading had finally come and I could begin grieving. The worst was over.

Looking back on my life I've lost more than I think I've gained, well if you don't count the past year or so. I've been to more funerals than I have to weddings and birthdays combined. I'm not sure whether that says more about my social life than it does the mortality rate in my close circle, but it definitely says something.

Something I think I'll always be grateful for is knowing what it's like to feel loss, the pain of losing a loved one and processing the emotions that come with it. When each of my grandparents passed, my parents didn't block off the pain or try to hide it from me. I went to every funeral and wake, I saw the coffins, paid my last respects whilst they were living and even saw my grandfather's lifeless body before his funeral. It was surreal and weird, like a Madame Tussauds exhibit. He was there, but he wasn't there. It was like you could reach out and touch him and his eyes would fly open, but you were too scared to do so and my parents would've told me to respect his body before I even got the chance to.

I was reading The Alchemist the other day and one of the things that struck me was something the alchemist himself told Santiago. He was talking about why people don't chase their Personal Legends and said it was for fear of not achieving it and what they'd lose by not having done so, as well as they life they'd leave behind in the search for it. I thought about my life and my dreams and realized that Having known so much loss at such a young age, I wasn't afraid of losing especially when I felt like it was more of a gain to pursue what I loved and felt passion for, rather that just sit around waiting to die like everyone else.

My grandfather brought a love of music to the family. All of mum's family were and still are musically inclined which is one of the greatest assets in life I think. He maintained a steady job as a jeweler for a few decades in order to provide for his family, but in the meantime he pursued his love of music and played the piano for anyone and everyone. If he was ever known for anything in his life, it was his piano skills that amazed, astounded and impressed all that heard. He had his cake and ate it too.

The biggest thing I've learnt from death and loss is not to take anything or anyone for granted. You really don't know how long you've got and living with regrets isn't a very happy thing to do.

In the words of the great J.K Rowling "Do not fear death, rather an unlived life". Otherwise, you're already dead like them.

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