So what did he think about death? Nothing very much. It was one of those things that had always been there. Like China or pi or the ultimate chat up line. It was something to do with other people. Other people died. He’d been to their funerals. When he was eight he’d learned that the white bits that came off him in the bath were actually flakes of dead him. Being a peculiarly morbid child—he’d wanted to visit a crematorium for his next birthday rather than the zoo—at that age the idea that he might be dying from the inside out fascinated him. “In the midst of life we are in death” and all that. There seemed a certain poetry to the whole concept which he couldn’t quite frame in his imagination. But, like some sort of dark sunset, the beauty of it appealed to him.
Of course, to his mother, being a religious woman, death’s place in the grand scheme of things was also a subject of a macabre fascination. In particular the idea that being dead was not really being dead, it was a passing on to some other state of existence, a better one—with harps; she liked harps. Jonathan asked her if there was a heaven for dandruff but was told not to ask such stupid questions.
At a very early age he had also taken note of the fact that the awareness of death, of the unknown, was something that had a marked effect on certain people. In the main, though, he witnessed lives devoted to self-indulgence and wringing the most out of the moment, because, “Tomorrow they were all going to die,” he supposed. Well now he jolly well had. And so far death made about as much sense as his entire life had. It was simply a thing to be got through because it couldn’t be got round.
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