On Dying

Written by Nikita Arora (c2018). Photograph by Giuliana Guarna (c2019).

A university student takes a picture in front of the fall foliage with a peace sign and a gleeful smile during his weekend hike
Depending on what colour the leaves are,
if they’re on the trees or on the ground
how long they’ve been there
His picture speaks of the dying process
              Of death
Of dead.

Autumn teaches us about death.

Autumn teaches us that death is every horror that we expected
Cold and slicing wind across the face
A sun so distant, it doesn’t feel warm even when it’s unobstructed by clouds
A darkness deep and prolonged despite efforts to counteract it *I’m talking about you, daylight savings*
Leaving everything bare and lifeless
And deafeningly silent

Autumn teaches us that death is beautiful
That death can be celebrated
Spattered with the artist’s strokes of red, gold and orange
An explosion of a thousand hues overlaid on each other
The leaves carelessly twirling down against the backdrop blue of the sky
The sound of a child jumping into a pile of leaves
The bickering of the geese bidding us farewell, until next time
The mischievous swaying dance of naked trees

Autumn teaches us that death is a part of the journey
That the fear and anticipation of death doesn’t change when it comes
It comes at different times for all – always unexpected
And so, even as they lose their photosynthetic green
And they know what is about to happen next
Because years of growth rings have brought them death upon death
Instead of dwelling on grief
The trees stand solemnly by
Meeting death with a sense of familiarity, with open arms
Deciduous not envious of evergreen
Because each chooses it own fate – as is right for each
And dust to dust is ultimately for all.

So maybe if there was one goddamn window in this hospital
We could look out to autumn to teach us
How to welcome death like an old friend
How to see its beauty
How to celebrate it
Even though it is indeed every horror we expected
In the end.

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