By: Ariel Fixler
Is there a sense of finality in death and is a goodbye really a goodbye? I wish I could give everyone a definitive answer. I have always been more inclined to focus on the hellos in life rather than the goodbyes. I have always been more focused on bringing people together and connecting them rather than alienating them with painful goodbyes and sorrow filled moments. I understand the need for closure and people’s need to make sure everything is A-OK (before someone passes or even moves on to another station in life). Let’s be frank here, that doesn’t always happen in the nick of time. We can plan all we want, but when it comes down to it in the end, nothing can be mapped out the way we had imagined. That remaining time might be allotted to escaping the pain and letting go. I know right now I identify whole-heartedly with the saying “loving me is letting me go”.
I know I spent any moments I was awake with Netflix watching Frank Underwood’s regime of meticulous power play on House of Cards. Though the first episode of season 3 was brutal to watch, as someone who is in constant pain, feels helpless and powerless to circumstance with limited mobility and function. I really identified more than I would care to admit. I’m sure most people were bored with (as it wasn’t an episode filled with political chaos). I found it real and raw to be in that much pain. I was reminded of what it was like to be struggling to stay away from narcotics as a crutch to subdue the pain (pain meds are always pushed on you). So that viewing process wasn’t a true escape. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-10297/over-prescribed-america-infographic.html
So I tried to tune into to lighter fair like the new Ellie Kemper’s Doomsday Cult Comedy series on Netflix, Parks and Rec and Broad City. But my favorite series that brought me back to my childhood was VH1’s (yes I said VH1) Hindsight. An amazing retro 90’s show that was funny and so smart. I can’t thank Evan Hodes enough for introducing it to me (his best friend Kenny Neibart of Entourage fame wrote the series). It was a wonderful surrender and escape. There is nothing better than a throwback series that gets it right on many levels and connects your past with your present in a wonderful way.
We get so many of our ideas about pain, discomfort, closure, life and death from television and film that we forget what our beliefs on the subject truly are. We get lost in the illusion of death and not the reality of the situation and finality of death.
That is not to say I don’t constantly think about death lately and that it doesn’t fill me with fear, remorse and sorrow. Sometimes I wish I was unaware of what was going on around me. That my pain could be lost physically and my anguish less pondered and questioned mentally. I wish my need for closure was not front and center. Worse there is nothing I can do at this stage to initiate all the closure I desire and feel I deserve. I have to make peace with the fact of a less than “peaceful” existence and departure.
I wish I could really lose myself in binge viewing or some distraction and not truly concentrate on it. I pretend I do but it’s not really a mind-altering distraction. It’s just Netflix Noise. I can never properly shut down my brain and escape. I don’t envy my father or anyone with Dementia by any means. That being said, I do envy not being aware of your own mortality and suffering, even if just momentarily (for flashing moments in time). To lose yourself in being less cerebral could be a break from reality in a positive sense (especially when you are physically suffering). I know the confusion and lack of awareness is not something anyone wants in their life, but when it comes to grave suffering and saying goodbye it may be a mixed blessing. To have your fears not be so concentrated, forward in your thoughts and questioning may be a true way of way letting go and ushering out what will be more fluidly. To be relieved of that burden and that thought process, even if just for a moment in time to me seems like a possible blessing in disguise at times. I know that is a controversial statement but think about it and read it over again and you may not feel that same controversy in the content.
I don’t have some grandiose and white light esque vision of death. I know I have been an avid viewer of television and film. What we see in that medium is not always what we get when it comes to life’s finale curtain call right? So I could get many ideas of how death could be scripted and how life could end. The mediums where finality and series finales are wrapped up rather neatly or succinctly are not true “reality”. There are plotlines that leave people feeling satisfied for investing their time and energy into the series. Do you get that feeling of satisfaction or relief in death? You invested time in your narrative. Did it pay off? Since we the took time out of their lives to spend time with these characters on a weekly basis we deserve a fitting ending right? So the writers and creators want to satisfy you in the finality of a series or a film. But as we know that does not always happen (both in a scripted series and in life). That isn’t real life, authentic life and that isn’t death either. Life isn’t scripted and series finales may not meet our satisfaction needs.
You can try to hyper plan and control your own ending, destiny and fate as much as possible but it will never be perfect. Death is where you finally are OK with losing control and finally letting go. That is not to say there isn’t pain, but that same pain may be quieted by comfort. You can turn the volume down, way down and finally press MUTE. You don’t have an edited script for your exit, no one is giving you the right words to say and the right actions to take on before you pass.
You can hand over the reigns of your life to someone, a new creative force, a new energy, a new life force, a new spirit sister or brother. I don’t know if I believe in the afterlife. I believe in this life. I don’t know if my mind understands life after death. I don’t know if I am that creative in my vision of the afterlife (sorry to let you down). I don’t know if I believe in heaven or hell either. I do believe you can choose how you want to be remembered and that your spirit can live on through other people (and you may not even who those people are). That is why life is cyclical and a force to be reckoned with.
People may associate moments and memories with you or have your words breathe new life and new energy. You are not defined by one specific character arc, one event, one action or interaction. I choose to believe death can be peaceful. I choose to believe death can bring peace to not only your body but also let your mind roam just as freely. That you are reunited with your loved ones in some form or another (even if just for a moment in time). I don’t think you are all gathered physically somewhere in the afterlife. I see it more as your spirits are united, that your life force that has now ceased to exist physically on earth, directs you towards the ones you have missed while you were alive. That gift of connecting you to those forces of former life (your loved ones) is the universes final act. It is a thank you gift so to speak. It may be your reward or consolation for any suffering or remorse you felt because of the loss of your life (or the lives of ones you have lost).
This is not to say death doesn’t scare me.
I have anxiety about death. I am fearful.
I am remorseful. I am reflective.
I also have the distinct comfort of knowing I will be out pain.
I will be free of the physical and mental shackles that terminal illness has brought me.
I won’t be trapped in my own body, like it is a prison, while quietly being a viewer of life from the outside looking in.
My mind will be as still and quiet as my body.
Below is the finale of the HBO show “Six Feet Under”. The title of the episode is called “Everyone’s Waiting” which I find fitting and comforting. It is the best finale I have ever seen in my life. That is not hyperbole or me preaching to have new people binge watch the show. It has been off the air for 10 years now and I don’t work for HBO. The content of the show is still relevant as ever. That is not to say this my favorite series of all time but I sure liked it a lot. I liked it more because the show began during my college years, but yet like the Sopranos, it was a unifying force in my home. A familial bonding experience. I watched it with my family (like many HBO shows). We binged watched the show before binge watching was trendy. You know when HBO used to marathon their series on their channel regularly. HBO is/was as commercial free and seamless as Netflix. It was my sweet reward after my finals in school or after my internship on the film sets. My family loved the show as well.
When HBO used to re-air episodes even after the series ended (on their signature channel HBO-S) I would always stop what I was doing and re-watch it. Maybe I would pick up on some subtleties and messages I missed the first time (because of my age and overall life experience). You know what? I gained so much on additional viewings. Watching it in my early 20’s versus my late 20s and early 30s was a game changer on the meaning of life, death and finality.
The show was about loss, but more importantly it was about facing a life that is not perfect. Life where death, disease and conflict is all around you. Family is far from perfect. Yet, the show was real, it was raw and most importantly it was authentic about finality. It was candid in its approach regarding the possibility of the afterlife (for those who choose to believe in it). That voice, that vision, could be the same person they all lost, but the meaning of their message was different for every character. It showed that death was the end for some people and for the more imaginative it was not. There were life forces all around us. These forces were guiding us, advising us as if they were still with us.
The moments where it scares me and makes me feel alone and afraid.
The moments where I am angry at the goodbyes I didn’t get to say.
The moments when I mourn the peace I was unable to make.
Where I feel that indescribable chill of not being around for more of the moments in life.
When I want to mourn a curtailed existence.
That same life I have also missed so much already because of my illness. During those times, I look at this video and I remember that life can move on. I am reminded that life can be beautiful. I am hopeful that maybe, just maybe, death can be just as beautiful and peaceful.
I cry every single time I watch the final scene of the finale. I don’t cry because I am overwhelmed with sadness. I mean the clip is sad but not in a gut-punch way. It is sad because it is able to say so much about life and death WITHOUT ANY WORDS AT ALL. As soon as I hear the Sia song “Breathe Me” 3 minutes and 30 seconds into the video, I am overcome with peace and comfort. I usually actually just start the video at that part. That a show that portrayed life and death in such a real and authentic manner decided to portray how they viewed the finality of life in such a beautiful manner. Even better no viewer of the show expected the final 10 minutes that changed the course of how series finales should be. It just seemed like a normal finale but then it hit you this was very different. You knew innately the finale would stay with you for a long time. I mean it stayed on my DVR for 5 years. I would rather have a faulty Time Warner box than give up the finale.
The show and the finale made death comforting and artistically pleasing. It connects all the characters in both life and the after life.
The final scene brings together the theme of family and friends. It ties into the theme that people are quietly watching over you during moments you need comfort, during moments you need to let go. The finale scene shows everyone is connected. The final scene shows that everyone is loved, supported and comforted in their due time. Wait, be patient, your comfort will come. The show displays the people you love can be your family, extended family and friends. Nothing defines you anymore especially your death. You don’t have to be a fan of the show to watch the finale. You don’t have to understand anything about the series to see the beauty in it all. The message of the finale is simple and cohesive. I am constantly chilled by the music and visuals. I also find it so comforting that the musician, Sia, whose song soundtracks this final scene, is now very famous and deservingly so. She is not famous in an attention seeking way. She doesn’t show her face in performances. My friend Lissy named her daughter Sia which always made me smile.
Sia (the singer) is anonymous and famous at the same time. I feel it’s very fitting to the message that people are all around us and we might not be aware of their physical presence or spirit, in life and the afterlife.
This finale was shot ten years ago and till this day whenever I hear the song “Breathe me”, I get chills. I feel a need to be comforted and watch the finale immediately. I hope you take ten minutes in your day to see why this final scene is so moving, comforting and peaceful. I hope it fills you with the same peace it fills me with. I hope it takes away some of your fears and helps you cope in moments that seem incapable of comfort.
Six Feet Under Final Scene: