Death has the strangest way of turning life around. Take Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and even Amy Winehouse, for example. Prior to their deaths, they had become more noted and criticized for their dysfunctional lifestyles than for their previous artistic contributions. Most of us had probably written them off in our books of Success Turned Bad. In each case, however, as soon as the first death tweet hit the masses, music sales multiplied exponentially. YouTube views of concerts and interviews went viral, and television stations played and replayed the details about their passing while the general populace quietly contemplated the tragic loss. Why do we do this? Does it have to take the sudden and permanent loss of someone to redeem his or her value?
I see this tendency in many long-term relationships as well, where one person basically goes about life ignoring or even abusing the other usually when there is a loss of respect for whatever shortcomings are discovered along the way. This tends to happen when the thrill of the relationship has waned because of revealed human frailties or failures—when hardcore reality shows its unattractive face. This downward spiraling phase can continue for years, but when the underappreciated member finally dies—either physically or emotionally—the other party becomes not only remorseful, but he or she tends to become point-blank obsessive about what no longer exists.
Most wedding services throughout the world culminate with the phrase “Till death do us part.” It’s such a precarious statement, especially these days when “love and cherish” only applies to the first few months of marriage, and “in sickness and in health” really only means “until sickness gets in the way of health.” This is why so many relationships end in an emotional death way before the physical. The tragedy is not so much in death itself, but rather, it is in the fact that death can happen long before the actual dying occurs. What’s left afterwards is an endless searching for what could have been, but no longer is.