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Final Exits



"Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future."
                                                                           --- Cloud Atlas

Recent events in our community have left me reeling. Vicente Mundo, a 20-year-old student at the university here, was murdered last week, shot in the head as he tried to escape from people attempting to rob him of drugs and money. By all accounts, he was a nice young man, definitely handsome. Came to our community from Chicago, working on getting his bachelor's degree, preparing to start his adult life in earnest. That's all gone now. It's sad, it's terrifying, it's anger-inducing.

When a senseless, violent death occurs, it makes me think -- of all things -- of their birth. And then I realize that all deaths should probably invoke such thoughts. I think of how such lives must have begun.... indeed, how most lives begin. Most births are fairly similar. True, there are some deviations but, for the most part, the baby exits the mother's body, and enters the world often surrounded by love. This assumes that there is family present, which there typically is, and that the family is grateful to see the child, which is usually the case.

So our births are much the same. We enter the world from our mothers' wombs, surrounded by love, swaddled with whatever warm substance is at-hand, and we are looked after. Not so with our deaths. For whatever reason, that fills me with some degree of sadness. So very often the norm is for life to take over. We grow more callous toward one another. We become centered on our own day-to-day activities and wants, worries and happiness, and the love that was so present when we entered this world is often nowhere to be found upon our exit.

Think of all those lost on battlefields throughout history: their armor pierced by arrows, their helmets by bullets, mortar shells blowing their bodies apart. Now picture their births: the happy parents, the release of the umbilical cord, the first time they were held in loving arms. Did they deserve to have such opposite bookends to their lives? What of folks -- young or old -- who pass away emaciated after long battles with disease? Their births seem to be such irreconcilable occurrences.

I dunno, dear reader. So very few of us slip away healthily, in our sleep, with a loved one close by. It happens, of course, but very rarely without the happiness of our birth. Either we are in pain, or unaware of our surroundings, or meet a violent end, or are alone. And, for the most part, I don't think we deserve it. Vicente Mundo certainly didn't deserve to die with a bullet to the head. I can't help but think that his birth deserved a better bookend than that.


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