The Gift of Death

Death has been making visits as of late. Last weekend I attended a funeral of a friend whose brother had committed suicide. His father had committed suicide in the mid-2000s. I attended the funeral last weekend in Atl. It was such a gift to see my old friends from college and so strange that death would be the driving power to bring us together after years. I had been estranged from one friend for many years prior to last weekend. Pain was at the heart of our separation, and I often wondered if our relationship would ever renew. Death had its gift though us.

This past Sunday I was driving through my neighborhood to find my old friend’s parents house occupied with people. My first though was a feeling. Was the gathering a celebration? Or is that mourning I feel? I stopped by to find out that my friend from high school had died – sitting on his couch, beer in hand, football game going on the television. The past few days the house has been filled with people. Jimmy was an only child. I’ve been in prayer for their family, and I have found myself in reflective contemplation at strange times – as I play soccer, enjoy veterans day with my father, laugh with my beautiful students – one of the most exceptional students I have in every way – made a passing comment during class that meant the world to me, “Everyone loves you Mr. Hudson!”

My life is a gift today.

One of my favorite thinkers wrote a book titled, “The Gift of Death.” The father of deconstruction, Jacques Derrida, enters into a mediation on death. He says that Death becomes a question of responsibility. How to die? It is a mystery that is at once terrifying and utterly demanding – mysterium tremendum – because when death is encountered it produces the terrible realization that what is required of us is our entire being. The responsibility is to make a gift of our death, that is, of sacrificing ourselves for the sake of the Other, God.

I am discovering this slowly – that life gives way to death. I’m discovering how to work without regards for myself or my needs. Working without regards for the body or this desirous mind. I’ll find this space on the track – running into oblivion, at the limit of my capacity I will speak over myself, “It’s unlikely I’ll die.” So you see how young I am. In the face of death my commitment extends only in the most selfish of ways: “I’ll get some exercise!”

The point is the loosing of oneself for the other – in duty to the other. In loosing all desire one paradoxically finds exactly what one was searching for in the first place. Death is a Gift.

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