Fallen icons

Warning, an unseasonal confession.

As I get older, I fear less the slow approach of my own demise than the precipitous disappearance of those people I looked up to and who shaped my life, the incognizant co-conspirators of my becoming. Family, friends, icons who never suspected the altars I built to their name. The sung heroes who didn’t hear the songs coming from me.

Living in the shadow of death, once you’ve known life, is insufferable. One’s own death is more acceptable than the spectacle of one’s heroes vanishing. And as the subjects in focus roll slowly on, the background turns at breakneck speed. After a while, the icons start dropping like stars around me, and I find myself completely unprepared to manage the fallout.

The farther we go, the more we have to experience the pain of separation, the sting of the empty chair. The question left unanswered, the echo down the hall. It is the natural way, but by no means an acceptable one. And yet we learn to accept. 

The mysterious soldier Belleface, in Van der Plaetsen’s novel Le métier de mourir, notes that death holds no fear in a trooper. It is the fear of injury and having to live with mutilations for the rest of one’s life that is the most terrifying prospect for those in the line of fire. Having to live with the mutilations of a world deprived of the people we loved, respected and lived with is the most dreadful, and is the centre of my anxiety around dying.

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