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  • Russ Newton

What is death?

As you might imagine it, I have had the opportunity to think hard about this subject since I was diagnosed with a 100% fatal illness. Came across the following on the Washington Post website a few minutes ago and decided to share a partial version of it. I found this soothing for some reason.


If we stay focused on the body, the most concrete thing about us, it becomes difficult to say whether death exists at all. From the time you are born, your body is turning over. Cells are dying and growing all day, every day. The life span of your red blood cells, for example, is about 115 days. At your healthiest, living is a process of dying. A vital tension holds you together until the truce is broken.

But your death is not the end of your body. The chemical bonds that held you together at the molecular level continue to break in the minutes and months after you die. Tissues oxidize and decay, like a banana ripening. The energy that once animated the body doesn’t stop: It transforms. Decay from one angle, growth from another.

Unfettered, the decay process continues until all that was your body becomes something else, living on in others — in the grass and trees that grow from where you might come to rest, and from the critters who eat there. Your very genes, little packets of stuff, will live indefinitely as long as they found someone new to host them. Even after interment or cremation, your atoms remain intact and scatter to become other things, just as they pre-existed you and became you.

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