Image by Amaya Eguizábal from Pixabay 

The movie “Collateral Beauty” starring actors like Will smith, Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, and such narrates a man grieving his young daughter’s death. He writes letters to love, time, and death asking for answers for his loss followed by his friends posting those letters. And as answers to those letters, they hire theatre actors to make an entrance into the life of their depressed friend as the physical form of love, time, and death to help the man cope with his situation through some encouraging messages from each of those abstract elements—a beautiful movie dealing with a subtle concept. It makes one think. Especially the idea that death, although tragic, dreadful, and painful, leaves behind a collateral beauty in a person’s life. This when heard could seem lame and ridiculous, meaning what sort of beauty can be seen in death? Losing someone forever is ugly. It pushes a person into grief, scars the mind and soul, and permanently changes the direction of life, which could uncertainly be good or bad. Wait a moment, is it even allowed to think or consider the word good along with something horrifying like death?

The 15th-century poet John Donne expresses his disappointment and disagreements towards death very dramatically in his poem "Death be not proud". The title itself conveys his emotions of anger in an arrogant tone, snapping at death like a natural person not to be proud of itself. He even pities death to be a dependent, powerless entity. He says,

“Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,”

At the end of his poem he ironically quotes, "death, thou shalt die". The poet seems to be in denial to accept death and its inevitable power. He is fighting with rage to rise above by defeating it. Pretty wild approach. It's not just John Donne who goes with this approach to immortalize mortal beings, there are several metaphysical poets of the renaissance who have tried it through their sonnets and poems. Most of them say that their beloved people are going to be immortalized through their literary works. Shakespeare says in his sonnet 55 that,

“You will live this, and dwell in lover’s eyes.”

“This" here stands for the poem he wrote. Which is indeed true. He and all the human beings that were alive and are living will be remembered through their brilliant contributions to the world. But talking about their approach to looking at death with denial and arrogance reminds me of the five stages of grieving that are usually referred to. The process begins immediately after a person has lost their loved ones. Those commonly-known stages of grieving are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Denial is not seeing the reality of the death of that valuable person. That he/she is never going to be there. This slowly turns into anger. Anger on God, if a person believes in that. Or anger on one's self to have to go through all those confusing emotions, not able to understand the unfairness of snatching away something so dear by something so cruel. People even find it hard to take the name of the lost person. Whenever the name pops out, rushing waves of memories sweep the mind, leaving heavy sadness, followed by anger. This anger is because humans consider themselves invincible constantly climbing the ladder of growth and success, grudging on the past too, and planning incessantly the future assuming almost immortal perhaps? "Almost" because they know intrinsically that death is just hovering right above them. But yet we shove off that reality.

Moving forward in the grief realm, the person would soften up for the next stage and start bargaining with promises to do all things right just to get that one dear person back from being dead. When all of this doesn't seem to show even a thin silver lining, the person awakes to the idea of the futility of his existence in the absence of another. If death is what is written for every living creature then why not have it early, right at the moment when so much remorse is stocking up? This is the stage of depression.

I stop my article right there at depression, the bottom of the horror one could reach. Because Max Richter's music composition from the movie “Arrival” begins to play on Spotify. “The nature of daylight”, is the name of the background music that plays at the opening of the movie and then in pieces throughout till the climax. The music brings out gushing, turbulent feelings of tiredness, pain, and melancholy of having sauntered through a dark tunnel. Just like walking through all those dark stages of grief and coming out on the other end with a glorious triumph of acceptance, the last stage. A silver lining of hope is that life is still worth living and death is just an end that is unstoppable and in some cases just unexpected. The movie Arrival reveals the power to see the future in Louise, the protagonist. A future that involved the death of her daughter. Still, Louise chooses to live her life, making the same choices and is just ready to face everything that she knows already would happen. That makes me think can this hard grief be made easier in any way by accepting death right from the dawn of our lives? Death is immortal, can't be escaped right? So instead of considering it a taboo or a bad omen to talk about, what if we are educated and practiced to think about it, learn its consequences, talk openly, and try to understand the real nature of our life on this planet? Would that make things a little better when met with death? Probably not. Can we try this unconventional perspective? Yes, that we can.

If I say life is a delicate string and every breath of air we all take or every moment we all pass are these small, colorful, glimmering beads that go into that string whose precise length and strength we do not know and possibly will never know, but yet the labor of picking those beads, pushing them together to make an elegant chain to reflect upon after it's broken that seems worth doing. Isn't it? Yes, surely not all the beads are going to be shining blue and yellow, they are going to be disappointing and disgusting, black and grey ones too. But as a whole, it would still be good to see. And the whole job is to try and make handsome beads to stack up. Isn't it?

So that is it. That chain of beads is what one gains as collateral beauty from death. When the existence of this secondary asset commences in our mind, we feel free enough to pick and watch those beads, to talk and share them with others. Sharing could be an amalgam of gloom, regret, euphoria, denial, and anger creeping in again but at the end of it, every time there will be a smile left on the face with watery eyes. Because you have accepted and now know the beauty of death.

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