Once you have existed, nothing can erase you from existence.
I’ve been thinking about Nikki. Nikki is always in existence because she can’t be removed once she is there. She may not be here, in this place, this time, where we can see her.
But she is here when she was kitty larva.
And she is here when she was a kitten exploring the world and forming her personality.
And she is here as she went into that gangly-legged elongated kitten phase.
And she is here as she became an adult cat, just barely.
And she is here as she matured into a real adult cat, and then matured further.
And she is here as she became middle–aged, for a cat.
And she is here as she got old.
And every single one of those things is part of her existence.
She is there sick and she is there healthy.
She is there in every mood she’s ever been in, everything she’s ever done.
It’s all indelibly marked onto the pieces of existence she was around for.
And somewhere in some other time those things always exist.
They can’t unexist.
And that’s besides all the people who cared about her, the people she cared about, the dog she fought with even over Skype, the trio of formerly-feral-kittens she grudgingly accepted and then loved and protected, the houses she protected, the Cat Things she got up to on her own that humans can’t possibly know about that had immense value to the world.
All of these things still exist because things don’t unexist just because time rolls on.
And now, she is buried just under the roots of a tree, and will physically go on to nourish all the things underground that will decompose her, and I think that’s beautiful.
And the less tangible aspects of who she was, that fiercely independent, stubborn, protective, dutiful on her own terms, hard-to-sum-up personality she had, will go on in other ways just like she’s nourishing the plants and bacteria and fungus in the ground. All those things get distilled into a particular expression of love that goes on to affect the world. (This is not as separate from decomposition as it seems. I’m working with the English language here.)
I don’t just want to remember her when she was ‘in the prime of her life’ or something. Everyone always wants to do that for some reason. I want to remember her at every phase of her life. I want to remember her when she was dying just as much as I want to remember her before that. And I want to remember her during the long phase of chronic health problems that went on years before her death. Like most people, she wasn’t always healthy, and pretending that part of her life didn’t happen doesn’t work for me. She’s everything she ever was at every stage of her life, not just one piece of it.
I have my own ideas about what goes on (or not) after death, but they’re only ideas, and that’s all any of us can have. I think people can forget how individual and powerful and not-to-be-fucked-with-sacred and important each person’s death is. Death makes life possible, is impossible to separate from life, and is not the enemy. But life matters.
And… most of what I’m talking about here, doesn’t require any particular set of beliefs about what happens after death. Just that if you take time a certain way, the way we exist now is marked upon existence forever, both in right now and in the ripple effects we cause, which never go away.
So Nikki is gone, to us, right now, and that is cause for grief at the separation.
But all through her life, every moment of her life, is still there in the time Nikki was in when she was alive. And everything and everyone she affected is still being affected. And in those ways she can’t be un-existed just because she’s dead.
I’ve been meaning to write a series of posts about how I think about death. Which is extremely complicated in some ways. But this is how I feel when someone I know dies. And this is how I feel about Nikki right now.