The role of death

Have you ever focused on how many things must die in order that you must live?

The centrality of death, indeed the life-giving power of death, is a central role of the Catholic faith I was raised in and am reevaluating. Jesus died (many believe) to give us new life in the resurrection. One of his famous sayings was that of the seed that must die in order for the plant to be born. Death and resurrection is critical to the faith, but it was never personal for me as a believer. It was a saying, a tenet of theology, not something I felt in my heart of hearts.

Nature is a brilliant symphony, beautiful yet efficient and wholly violent. Things are constantly dying (or, in the case of inanimate matter, being subsumed and transformed) and being born. Everything is food for everything else. Even we, apex predators, are dirt and to dirt we must return. Do we appreciate how much life we take in order that we live? Do we appreciate the intimate role of death in every meal, every day, every year we walk on the earth?

Those who read my homestead blog know we’ve had a lot of death this year. They upset me, both in terms of emotional trauma and in terms of wasted effort because the animal could not go on and be productive for us. The past few mornings I’ve gone out prepared to find dead (or dying and needed to be put down) kits as we’ve lost two weak ones to the cold weather.  Finding them didn’t affect me as much as the earlier deaths. Was I getting callous? I initially thought so.

Then I remembered that death is absolutely central to our lives. Every day we are killers, not because we are monsters, but because that is what life is. We lose something when we sterilize our relationship with life energy. When we are always presented with sterile food we have no intimate connection with, death can only ever be a terrible and traumatic thing.

Being a homesteader, participating directly in the circle of life and death, has given me a new perspective. Death has a role other than trauma. Death is absolutely necessary. If we participate in it ourselves, we enter into a powerful stewardship role with the life energy we too easily take for granted.