We have had two high-profile deaths this week, alas: first, the former Wales football manager, Gary Speed; and Ken Russell, the filmmaker (Russell’s film ‘Altered States, incidentally, terrified me as a young man, or at least the concept did – that there exists deep within us, a terrifying reality that’s ready to erupt should we create the right conditions.)
Whenever someone dies, people quite properly offer their condolences to the family and friends of the deceased. This is right and fitting: they remain whilst the dead are gone forever, without hope or possibility of being touched by anything, let alone another’s thoughts.
Despite that, I can’t help but focus my attention first and foremost on the person who has died. I would stop short of saying I pass to them my thoughts or condolences, since that would be futile. But in the case of those who have perhaps died before their time, or in difficult and desperate circumstances, I think of their pain and suffering, their life cut short, the impossibility of helping them to go on living but the immense desire to do so. A selfish need on my behalf, perhaps.
And, extending my thoughts to those who die, peacefully or otherwise, young or old, I think of the sadness for them – unheard and unknown by them, true – that their life has been lost and all their thoughts, feelings, loves and experiences gone with it. I think of the potential lost forever, of their very personal loss. I think of them despite of the fact that they cannot understand because they cannot understand. Death is only felt by the living, I know; and since I live on, I mourn the loss of those who die, famous or otherwise, now that everything for them has gone.