Nearly Two People

Olivia BaileyDecember 1, 2017Creation and DestructionFeatures

Someday, everyone you love will die.

You probably stared at that sentence for a minute, didn’t you? What a way to begin an article. So morbid. So terrible and cruel.

But what, what on earth is honesty if not cruel?

Someday, everyone you love will die. So will you. So will every single person who is living on this earth right now, and who will ever live on this earth. Nearly two people die each second. Two people with families and friends, two people who have had someone who loved them at some point in their life. Because no one can coast through this life without having at least one person love them. If we did, then this would all be so much easier. If we were able to go through life, never loving, never being loved, then we could die and no one would much notice. We would be replaced, and our life would pass without incident. It would be so, so, so much easier for everyone. We would all just . . . continue. No harm done.

But that’s not how it works. It hurts when we lose someone we love. Regardless, death is inevitable. It is the last grain of sand draining from the top of the hourglass. The question, really, isn’t “What if we didn’t feel the pain of death?” because we always will, but more “What if we don’t really die?” Every religion in the history of humanity poses some variation of that question, because, in the end, death is the biggest mystery, the biggest fear, the biggest imposing future event. The idea that we will all be destroyed is the hardest idea for us to accept. And the idea that everyone and anyone we love can just . . . die, well, that’s a close second.

Judaism. Christianity. Islam. Hinduism. Buddhism. They all have some idea of the afterlife. In Judaism, Islam, and Christianity we find variations of heaven and hell: the idea that when someone dies (or, in the case of Islam, when we reach the Day of Judgement), they will be brought to judgement based upon what they have done with their lives, and will either be placed in an eternal paradise (heaven) for good deeds, or in eternal punishment (hell) for bad deeds. Many Buddhists and Hindus believe in reincarnation: that the soul will be reborn again and again into new bodies until they get to a point where they are allowed to be freed from the terrible loop of reincarnation. Though these two types of beliefs are very, very different, they both pose the same challenge to the idea of death.

The idea that those we love will die, that they will never be again, even as we continue through our lives, is perhaps too hard for us to accept. Because we would rather never see the people we love again whilst knowing they’re still alive then watch them die, never to smile or cry or speak again. If their soul continues beyond them, then who is to say that we’ve truly lost them? Who’s to say that they’re not out there somewhere, existing? That is the idea behind heaven and hell and reincarnation — that people will continue, even as their bodies, their flesh and bones and blood, expire.

Everyone’s beliefs are different. Some people are devout Catholics, others attend a Reform synagogue every Sabbath, some are firmly atheist and don’t believe in any kind of god at all. But in the end, we don’t have a way of truly knowing exactly what comes next. We could only know for sure if we were to communicate with the dead. Recent studies have begun to delve into what happens when we die, through asking 140 survivors of cardiac arrest what they experienced when they were flatlining. About 40% said they felt some kind of awareness during the time that they were “dead.” They all described different things happening. Some of them saw a light. Others felt like they were drowning. A good deal of them felt like they had been separated from their bodies. But a mere five minutes of death doesn’t seem to even scratch the surface of the eternity of death, and, though they are credible, these studies don’t seem to prove much at all. They are simply the product of our unquenchable thirst to know.

But when you get down to it, the truth is that we don’t know. We don't know if death means reincarnation or judgement or oblivion. It could be eternal TV static and we wouldn’t have any way of telling.

Someday, everyone you love will die.

That is the cold, hard truth of the matter. But we’re not about to stop loving people just because they are going to die. We are not going to stop loving people just because we know that someday they — and we — are going to become one of those nearly-two-people. Destruction is inevitable. People die. Temples crumble to dust. Civilizations fall to pieces. Someday it will not only be everyone you love but everyone anyone has ever loved, ever. Someday, we will all be dead, and our civilizations will be in ruins, and our temples and books and ideas and languages will be gone, wiped from this planet just as we are.

But that’s never discouraged us. Because we are human beings, and we cannot live our lives without creating something to balance out our ultimate destruction. We will live, even with that imposing knowledge of death hanging over our heads, ticking on and on and on and on. We will pass, someday. For a moment, we will be one of the people to leave this earth. And maybe there is something next. Maybe there is life after this, be it through reincarnation or another otherworldly plateau. But we cannot live around that. We cannot center our entire lives around something we do not know will happen. Sure, we know that someday, we will die, but we also know that that is no more than the very end. It is the last grain of sand in the thousands inside the hourglass that is life. And maybe, just maybe, if you get out there and stop thinking so hard about what will happen next, you might just manage to create something that will outlast you.


"The World Factbook." Central Intelligence Agency. Central Intelligence Agency, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2017.

Knapton, Sarah. "First Hint of 'life after Death' in Biggest Ever Scientific Study." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 12 Mar. 2016. Web. 19 Oct. 2017.

Olivia Bailey is 13 and heading into eighth grade at Frank Harrison Middle School in Yarmouth, Maine. Her hobbies include reading every fantasy novel she can get her hands on, writing about Odorea (a world she created with her friends), drawing constantly, skiing at Saddleback Mountain Ski Area, and playing with her dog, Piper, who enjoys chewing up things bigger than she is. Olivia is working hard to get her whole school to participate in mindfulness and has nearly succeeded.