It's a sad fact that our grief over someone's death is often more about ourselves than about the person who has died. True, we mourn the loss of a loved one, be they family or friend, and the despair is partly due to the actual person losing their life. But the gap left in our own lives by the loss is what really drives our desolation. It has often been noted that funerals are for the living, not for the dead.
I ruminated upon thoughts of life, death, sorrow and what we mourn for as I was watching the recent Downton Abbey Christmas special last night on PBS. Be warned that what comes next contains spoilers for that story, so, if you haven't yet watched it -- and plan on doing so -- you may want to stop reading now.
At the end of the Christmas special, Matthew Crawley, husband to Mary and father of a newborn son, dies in an automobile accident. As he was the rightful heir to the titular estate, his death leaves quite a mess in its wake. A young, idealistic man in his early thirties, having just held his baby in the local hospital and expressed his love to his wife and mother of his child, Matthew lay dead along the side of the road, crushed by a motor car, his lifeless eyes staring into the air.
Some have expressed their displeasure with Matthew Crawley's death, but I think the program will surive. In fact, I applaud the bold move (made necessary because of actor Dan Stevens' desire to move on to other things). What I appreciate about this plot development -- sad though it may be -- is that it reflects what really happens in life. People die. Sometimes, people die needlessly and unexpectedly, at the height of their revelry. So it goes.
What I think upon most is how Mary Crawley will deal with her husband's death. He loved her very much. Prone to being prickly at times, Mary hasn't always been the easiest person to deal with. Matthew saw through this, however, and loved her for who she was, personality defects and all. This is how most relationships are. Whether it be between lovers, parent and child, family member or friend, we have those in our lives who see us for who we are -- good and bad -- and love us anyway, sometimes even more so.
Thus it was with last night's Downton Abbey that I ruminated on those I've lost over the years, and what their deaths meant for me. Yes, this is a selfish thought process, but as I alluded to earlier, death is often a selfish venture. From suicides, to cancer, to heart attacks and beyond, various deaths have meant various things. But in the most extreme cases, they've meant the very real loss of someone who loved me. One less person in the world who cares.
All of this may be the epitome of selfishness but, well, that's life for you. So it goes.