Of Death and Beauty

Right now there is on my dining room table an arrangement of cut flowers in a clear glass vase. The vivid colors are an enthusiastic mix of purple and magenta, green, yellow, and salmon. I smile to see it, partly because it arrived with a card reading

which made me feel very loved, and partly because the vibrant hues invariably make me think of certain of my friends who are like that: colorful, vivacious, eye-catching, intense, full of life. People like that always frighten me a little, but once they are my friends I love them for all the ways they are not like me. Created for life as we are, it is not hard to find beauty in the vibrancy of it.

Strewn across my coffee table are eleven white roses. They were part of a bouquet given to me by a florist friend: a lovely blue and white arrangement, remnant of a summer wedding. They are fading, glossy leaves stiffening into dullness, velvet petals hardening in brittle death. And they are beautiful. There is no struggle here, no rage against the dying of the light. Only graceful surrender to time as they become a fragile memory – yesterday’s flowers. I love them better every day they die, and I marvel at the desolate loveliness that death and ending can hold.

On my living room wall hangs another flower arrangement. Its colors have long faded into muted tones: parchment yellows, dusty mauves, blackened wines, greens pale and cold. Nearly nine months past, it was my bridesmaid’s bouquet at the wedding that turned my friend into my sister-in-law. It was beautiful then, but now that it is dead and faded and fragile, I think I love it more. Beauty in life is easy to see and appreciate, but beauty in death – that is a rare gift.

Several weeks past I had a conversation with a friend on death – specifically, if death ever comes from God, or if it is solely a weapon of the Enemy which he is allowed to wield at God’s discretion. We did not entirely agree – but then, I don’t entirely agree with most people’s view on death. There is one man I do agree with, I think:

Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind. – C.S. Lewis

This life is not big enough and this world is too lonely for me to feel that death is the greatest tragedy we must face here. But then again, I suspect I may not really be qualified to have a fixed opinion on death. I have, after all, never died.