Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Death and nature

It is hard to say anything new about death, yet the NYTimes piece this week by Margo Rabb (1-26-15) caught my attention.

Her basic point, which hit home for me, was the difference in compassion between how doctors treated her at the time of her parents' deaths--coldly, impersonally--and her more recent experience at the vet, when her cat, Sophie, had to be euthanized.

I have often noticed how loving and sweet the staff are with my nervous cat and her owners, how impersonal medical personnel can often be with me.  I sometimes wish I could be taken to the vet.

But what I found arresting in Rabb's op-ed piece was her statement about how the death of an animal can be different from a human death: it is felt as an inevitable part of natural change: the cycle of life and death, the seasons and the years.  She says the death of her parents was for her unbearable and inhumane because human beings spend so much of their lives "railing against the idea of dying, or pretending that it doesn't exist, or dreaming of eternal youth, or wishing to prolong our lives. . . ."

By contrast, the death of her cat seemed natural and "exceptionally human." 

Rabb's article is a good example of the way in which the personal can become the universal.

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