“People arrive, so we celebrate, and people leave us, so we grieve. We do what we can with the time in between, but the cycle is always there.”
– Enoch, Agents of Shield
Season 7, Episode 9, “As I Have Always Been”
Enoch, at the moment he says this, is dying. He has made a sacrifice to save the lives of his team, his friends, and he did it without hesitation. In his last moments, his friends remain by his side, and they talk. It’s a powerful, and highly-emotional, discussion, among which, this observation allows them to show him that, even if they can’t go with him, he is still not alone. Every living creature is part of the cycle of life and death, and so even those who die alone are not alone: they are part of the cycle, with everyone else.
That cycle is, indeed, always there, and so it is something we tend to take for granted. We struggle against the pains of life, despite how pain is inextricably linked with living. We fight against death, in all its forms, despite how automatic, inevitable, and natural dying is. We always assume that there will be one more time when we see each other, as surely as we will see the sun rise again tomorrow, despite never really knowing any such thing. Even the sun will eventually grow dark and cold, after all, and, sooner or later, we, and everyone we love, will die.
The sorrow of loss is universal, at least to any creature capable of love. Yet we are never prepared for it. And I wonder if that is not for the best, because to be ready for it is to diminish its effect in some way. It is to be a little less hurt, which is to be in a little less pain. Pain is what makes us weep, and to feel pain, we must… feel. Pain tells us that something important has happened, that we have been injured in some way, that we have lost something precious to us, be it parts of our flesh, or parts of our soul. Grief is part of how we heal the holes left behind when we lose someone important. So, to be prepared for that loss, which diminishes the damage of it, the hurt, is much the same as to diminish the importance of the person or people who we lose.
Humanity, by every definition of the word, requires compassion to survive, and love opens us to grief. No, even more, it leads us inevitably towards grief, always. But what many forget is that love also leads us through that same grief.
So, on some level, we have to accept the cycle of life and death, love and loss, joy and sorrow. And we have to do this without trying to prepare ourselves, and minimize the grief that we will feel s0metime in the future. Maybe we do that best by simply going through it, living each moment without fear of the cycle. After all… it’s always there, and still we exist, so why be afraid of it?
To live in laughter, joy, and love without fearing the sorrow that will come… that sounds to me, at least, like a fairly good way to live.
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