Death is the ultimate mystery. We might taste death's varied flavors from the outside many times during our lives, but we only experience it from the inside once. No one truly knows what that one and final moment is like. We try to understand it. We have stories of "near-death" experiences. If we sit vigil with someone who is dying, we watch for signs and signals that can send us some message about the journey. We attach meaning to the signs. We look for metaphors and significance everywhere, because we want so desperately to know what has happened to that person, and what will happen to us.
I have been thinking about death recently because my family has been dealing with death. As we deal with this one death, we find ourselves revisiting other experiences of death in our lives. The sudden and unexpected deaths. The quiet deaths at home after a long life. The deaths we met when we were young and it was new. The deaths that came in cycles or came too early or too brutally. We strive to sift this one experience into the larger understanding of the great mystery.
We must study death. We become deeper people by studying it. Since every one of our stories ultimately has this same ending, we are compelled, each in our own way, to try to understand this thing that we all must face.