Death Is Black This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

October 27, 2010
Death is black
Like a raven.
It comes to everyone.
You never see it coming.

I wrote this poem in the sixth grade; at that time I believed these lines. But since then, certain events have led me to question this last assumption. Death is not the same for everyone. On the contrary, death is as different and unique for each individual as a fingerprint or a snowflake. And while some people “never see it coming,” others wake daily to its incorporeal visage.

My 90-year-old grandmother, whose advanced dementia has limited her ability to communicate beyond a series of grunts and groans, regularly wakes the household with bloodcurdling shrieks. When my aunt rushes into her room, she often finds my grandmother sitting up in bed, staring at an insubstantial presence who frequently manifests itself in her quarters. Wild-eyed, she gestures toward the apparition, as if to ward off her own mortality. Death, to her, is a recognizable presence that she deeply fears.

While some never see it coming, and others seemingly cope with it, there are still others who appear to possess some control over the time of their death, as if their willpower gives them the spiritual endurance to live until they feel they've completed their given tasks and chosen path in life. Recently, a 100-year-old New Hampshire teacher, who had gotten her two-year teaching degree in 1931, fulfilled a lifelong dream of completing her bachelor's in education. She died the following day, as if that had been her final goal.

Some individuals continue living, as she did, for personal reasons, but some live for their family or others in their lives. In one instance, a mother with terminal cancer somehow managed to survive until she had made arrangements for her family to be well taken care of. A singular example, yet all the more poignant.

There is a final classification of those who possess an innate acceptance of death. These individuals travel through life understanding that it does not matter where you are or what you're doing, it is inevitable that you will live until your time has come. But until then, regardless of whether you are lying in bed asleep or risking your life in combat, there is an unpredictability to life that these people acknowledge without trepidation.

Death gathers all souls as if picking flowers. It seems that there's a coherency to death, that it's all cut-and-dry, but unlike flowers, people have free will that permits us to define death on our own terms. Nonetheless, mortality is as unavoidable as life. You can fear it. You can ignore it. Or you can accept it. But, “it comes to everyone,” and sometimes you do see it coming.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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samiikay said...
Jun. 1, 2011 at 2:31 pm
this is quite amazing. it really pulled me in.
KRR131719 said...
Nov. 3, 2010 at 7:21 am
Very well written! Amazing vocabulary. Dark and real. I loved it!
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