Death Isn’t Beautiful (Its Byproduct Is): Damien Paxton’s Death

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Death is not beautiful.

To endure suffering isn’t magnificent not glorious. To watch someone who you love deeply suffer as their hands writhe with pain, their back twists with convulsions, their heart speeds and then slows to a dizzying pace that mimics a Nascar racer moments before a fiery crash…

Death is not beautiful. It is not kind.

Suffering is not cute or cuddly.

Death is raw.

Death is emotional.

Death is a slow knife being plunged deep into your soul by a deity.

That’s a truer metric of death than the romanticized¬†version of death I’ve read on the internet lately.

Death is not a pretty present; I will not find beauty in suffering.

Today marks one month since my nephew Damien Paxton, born February of 2014, left this universe. A horrific accident took his young life and a machine kept him alive for a few extra days. My younger sister made the devastating choice (if you can even call it that) to let him drift off into the universe and, in return, the universe, cuddled him with all her softness, wisdom, compassion, and with all his knowledge, fortitude, spirit, and bundled him with their strength as they ushered him to what lay next in the glimmering galaxy.

A baby died.

A baby that was my nephew.

A baby that wasn’t afforded so many first’s parents take for granted.

No first steps.

No first skips.

No first pet.

No first day of kindergarten.

No first tying his shoes.

No first dressing himself.

No first coloring inside the lines.

No first riding a bike.

No first kiss.

No first date.

No first engagement.

No first wedding.

No first break-up.

No first love.

No first angry fight.

A mere baby wouldn’t be afforded any of the stages I’ve watched my own children succeed and fail at.

So, death is far from beautiful.

Looking back and playing the Blame Game as we revisit history as to what anyone could have done to alter the circumstances that cut his life short. That’s one of the many brutalizing parts that surround death — no matter how your mind reworks the past, you’re still left with this cruel feeling. A void that can’t be self-medicated.

The cruel reality? Death is not a pretty picture you post on Instagram. You can not filter out this grieving with sepia. No amount of likes will turn this emptiness into a full belly of butterflies, unicorns, and rainbows.

Death sucks.

I never had an opportunity (or rather, never made room for an opportunity) to forge a relationship with Damien, yet the sinking feeling of my heart tells me, I didn’t need to.

I see him in my children; in random bunnies that lay at my feet for a moment; in soaring birds; in the beauty of a shared smile with a stranger.

I see him when braiding Alicia’s hair; in hearing Andrew’s long-winded recounts of standing up for the underdog; I see him in a beautiful sunrise nestled between the snow-capped Rocky Mountains. I see him in Scottie as he curls by my feet, stroking my pain with his paw.

I see him among laughing school children, among the wind that hits the barren trees that whistle a glory song to Nature.

I especially see him in the quiet moments at night, when Steven sneaks his hand to cover my own. In those moments, when the weight of the emotional toll of his passing brings, I can allow the tears to escape.

In those moments, Steven clings closer, and I know despite all the grieving, sorrow, and mourning, there is a certain captivating byproduct of death , never death itself, but a spawn of death.

In those moments, I’m not just letting tear therapy to overcome me, I’m crying for Damien.

These tears are for him.

For what should have been.

These tears are for the legacy hospice will bring.

The lives he touched from a vast distance.

These tears represent his spirit that comforts us.

They represent Damien nourishing our heavy souls with reminders of himself.

Hope. Love. Uncertainty. Growth. Unfulfilled Wishes. Promise.

These tears that I have succumbed to not only tell a story of emotional depth, they tell a heroic epic of a little boy who didn’t get a fighting chance in this world.

Verse-by-verse, they communicate the lives Damien Paxton touched far exceed my nominal grief.

No, death nor suffering is beautiful.

It is not kind.

Nor sweet.

It is not nurturing.

Nor lovely.

It is not picturesque.

Nor poetic.

It is not compassionate.

Nor aromatic.

Death hurts.

It is vile.

It cuts.

It scolds.

It bleeds.

It mutilates.

It never truly heals.

There’s a learning curve to death — you learn how to accommodate death and its emotional disaster.

Death is not a BFF, it is a ‘mean girl’.

Death is not a ‘Welcome’ mat strategically placed to invite guests into your home. It is the sound of a leaky faucet that your well-meaning spouse never seems to be able to fix.

Death is not cunning, it is cruel.

Death is not a virile house plant, it is one cared for by me — filled with spores and wilting away.

Despite all the sadistic things that are seen in a death, a possible byproduct of death is a beautiful monstrosity.

Renewed relationships, grieving as a family, loving at a higher degree, utilizing compassion, empathy, grace, and kindness at an increased degree, cementing new rituals dedicated to Damien, being aware of the Divine at every corner, accepting all of its gifts, and seeing Damien in everything …

These are beautiful.

Beautiful byproducts of death.

Death is not a cute, glamorized package,but this…this is something that can’t be repackaged by an outsider peering in.

I don’t know much – if anything – about life, but I do know Damien Paxton is helping me pen this.

These are his words and his comfort.

I do know Damien Paxton is right beside me and cooing in my ear.

Death certainly is not beautiful, but Damien will always be the epitome of beauty.

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