Give Death Its Due

In New English Review Dalrymple ruminates on death…on its frequently random quality, its disconnection from justice or desert, and our strange ability to avoid even acknowledging its existence until we have it thrust before us:

Ever since I was born about half a million people a year have died in Britain alone, making more than thirty million of them in my lifetime; yet until quite recently I hardly noticed this holocaust around me. Death played no more than a very minor part in the jejune drama of my life; I lived as if exclusively among immortals, where death, if it occurred at all, seemed almost a moral judgment on the lives of the departed rather than a purely natural event in those lives. They must have done something wrong to die.

Now all that is changing; I have reached an age at which even the deaths of those I have known but slightly affect me more deeply than the deaths of those I knew well affected me, when life without death seemed to be the norm.


…After a death we need to express such condolences, and it occurred to me then that often the person we are condoling after a death is ourselves as much as those who have lost someone. We try to comfort ourselves knowing that the fate of the departed is our own ultimate fate.

One thought on “Give Death Its Due

  1. Frederick

    Western culture, including its principal religion Christianity is of couse based on the systematic denial of death.
    Such is of course expressed in the infantile/childish nonsense that we are “saved” by believing in the the “resurrection” of Jesus. And the associated presumption that we will be “bodily resurrected” when “Jesus” comes again.
    But just beneath our normal dreadful sanity is a hell-deep fear-and-trembling.
    These two references point out that real human maturity necessarily demands that we take death fully into account. Or put in another way they describe what death, and therefore life altogether intrinsically demands of us.


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