Policemen, firefighters, reporters of death in general, always say the same thing:
“They died instantly—there was no pain.”
For some reason, I’ve never believed this.
I’ve always had the idea that time works differently
for the person who is dying:
that everything would move in
the moment when they realize they can no longer take a breath,
the moment of panic when they realize they are dying,
the moment before the last sign of life,
leaves their bodies.
So it wouldn’t be a painless death. It would be agonizing. And intricate.
It would seem to last a lifetime.
I don’t mean to be cynical, or gory,
it’s just what makes sense to me.
I mean, when the police officer says “instantly,” what does he mean, anyway?
Four seconds? One second? Ten?
That, to me, seems like a long time to be in shattering pain.
And death is so significant that I can’t imagine it is instant.
Maybe in our time, but not in theirs.
Nevertheless, what does it matter, my speculation?
The person is already dead. The “instant” has come and gone.
We are the ones in pain now.
And what does it matter, this tiny lie,
if believing it can make us, the remaining,
feel even a minute moment of solace
in the face of the death of someone we loved.