Just yesterday we learned that a close neighbor and friend for now more than twenty years died on New Year's Day at the age of 62. He was diagnosed a few months ago with frontotemporal dementia, a dire condition that strikes youngish people like our friend and can result in death in just a few short years. We had been watching his decline for months, as he became more wraith-like in physical appearance and more removed, it seemed to us, in his mind. Still, his death came after a very sudden and precipitous decline and we were shocked as well as deeply saddened to hear of it.
Useless to look for anything we can associate with human logic when it comes to death. For most of his life, our friend was strong, athletic, smart. He took good care of his body, was careful what he put into it by way of food, and kept it strong and agile with his dedication to the sport of surfing. He was an artist. His creative work was not in the same world Ellie and I have long inhabited, the world of so-called "contemporary" art--a world that excludes an awful lot of art that is, time-wise at least, contemporary; yet he was skilled and dedicated, and achieved a level of success in the world in which he chose to work. He was spiritually aware, a sometime meditator, and was in tune with nature in the way a true surfer must be.
In short, there was nothing about our friend's life that could have earned, or predicted, this sudden and cruel demise. His death comes as a bleak, but bracing, reminder that the measure of our lives, as mortals, is unpredictable and that it bears no relation to the way in which we live them. There is no "justice" in the moment or manner of our death. The wisdom--and the paradoxical source of happiness--is to keep death in mind, to be aware of its proximity, to know that it awaits us all, and to prepare ourselves in mind and body for its imminent arrival.