top of page
  • Writer's pictureMichelle Carlos

Beautiful Death

Updated: Apr 5, 2021

Why is the topic of death a taboo when it’s the most natural thing to happen to every living thing? We’ve all come face to face with it. Peter Pan sees death as another adventure although he is forever young and also fictional. Follow me as I contemplate about death and living.

A woman in a coffin with roses
"Beautiful Death" | Watercolor, Gouache, and Acrylic | 2018

Losing Someone

We all have lost a loved one. Some of you may have also witnessed a horrific experience. A cousin passed away recently due to complications of cancer. For years he suffered and now it is over. Wherever he is we can only hope for peace. His passing however has been disturbing not only because of the consequences of his death—he is survived by his wife, my first cousin, and their three children. (I cannot fathom the depths of her despair.)—but also because I too, had cancer. In a different circumstance, I would have also been long gone. Although my illness was no way terminal during its diagnosis, one could not help but contemplate the idea of dying before 40.

Dying Young

Not too long after their wedding one of my good friends in college died at a very young age from a gun shot by her husband. The news of it was a shock and even to this day, there is this unspoken rage in the deepest recesses of my heart towards her assailant. Why?! I could only ask myself. I would dream about her and each time I saw her, we would walk and talk as if time has not passed but always conscious that she was physically no longer of this world and also quite aware that I still could not bring myself to apologize for not helping her find the specific wind chimes she wanted as her wedding souvenirs or tell her that I was the one who told the mortician to change her lipstick from a hooker’s red to peach! She hated red lipstick. We would bid farewell until the next meeting. Often I would dream about departed loved ones. The memory of those dreams are still clear as day and sometimes they gave me messages to relay to their loved ones—a detail that I would often miss until I saw that particular person.

Morbid Thoughts

I’m no clairvoyant and yet I talk to dead people in my dreams and think about death all the time. I subject my beloved to it as well whenever he would be away from me just like in that scene in Amélie when she entertains her wild imaginations of why Nino was late: maybe he didn’t find the photos and got kidnapped, lost his memories from a car crash and ended up in the desert as a Bedouin looking after goats. People often say that when you are facing death, your life flashes in front of you. When I found out about my illness I was given a week to decide about my fate, my 3-decade life flashing before me, and wept all throughout it until I declared on the day of my operation, “Fuck babies! Let’s get rid of this (cancer).” and also sang "Blue Skies" while the nurses put me to sleep—one of them noted that I was the only patient in a good mood. I was looking through the window and wondering why I was lying there.

Death Wish

Thoughts of it however do not stop me from living. In fact my belief is that once we have accomplished our task in this life it would be time for us to move on to the next one. Black South Africans give more importance to death insurance coverage than health insurance because to them death is certain while an illness or an accident is, as we all know, a matter of chance. I probably haven’t done my share yet but when I finally fulfilled it and succumbed to it, my only wish is that you lay me down on a bed of flowers, wearing my favorite dress, my wedding ring and my Mother’s pearls. Sing me my Father’s song to me to carry me through my eternal sleep. My words, my colors and my book let me keep. Turn me into ashes and let me fly so I may carry on my voyage knowing that I have lived a beautiful life.


bottom of page