Death is weird, man. Maybe it’s because that despite its universal inevitability, its arrival is completely unexplainable and indiscernible. I think it’s that lack of control, the constant unawareness, that makes death so irreconcilable. It’s not like the sun or gravity, where you always know what it’s going to look like and how it’s going to affect you. It could come at quite literally any time and in any form. People tend to not like something so present yet invisible.
It’s also weird that we, and when I say we I mean Western society, deal with it so poorly. Many of us are insisted to that we shouldn’t fear death’s arrival as an end, but greet its occurrence as a beginning, as the start of our journey to our true, eternal existence. Yet when it comes for our acquaintances, for our friends and family, we rebuke it. We usher the body away from us and farm out the event’s logistics to strangers profiteering from an industry borne out of our fears and insecurities. Maybe it’s this realization of just how bad our society’s failed my perception and understanding of death that’s opened my curiosity of one South Korean suggestion.
When I first heard what the documentary Meeting You did I reacted the same way I’m sure most of you reading this did. I was appalled. I pictured some monolithic, emotionless tech giant exploiting the trauma of an unwilling participant. I assumed Jang Ji-Sung didn’t know what was going on, or if she did, she didn’t want to do it. How could she? What sane person would sign up to relive all that heartache, sadness, and the inevitable pain that’ll come when she’s forced to return to reality? I didn’t click on any of the articles for a couple days. I still haven’t watched the video. I’m afraid I’ll hear some kind of pain, some sort of expulsion of weight and grief in her voice, or see the joy of reunion on her face, and I’ll be forced to feel and face my own emotions that I’ve been suppressing for the last 20 months.
But, as is so often the case when you avoid something, it eventually catches up to you. The more of the articles I read, the more I stared at the video and various pictures of Ji-Sung, the more I placed myself in her position. Slowly, the empathy came. My own situation attached itself to the experience. Eventually, I created Sang’s rationale both from her quotes in the articles and the logic I would use if I were offered the same opportunity. Now here we are, a week (I think?) later, and I can say I think I want to try the Korean VR thing.
I didn’t experience my mom’s death in a pleasant way. It wasn’t slowly through age or gradual disease. We didn’t spend her last moment reminiscing a life fully lived, thinking back on a mother and son’s bond spread over decades. I didn’t have confidants or mentors to guide me spiritually and emotionally. I found out suddenly, over the phone, five-hours away, a day after I’d last talked to her and a month since I’d last seen or heard her. By the time I got to the house they’d taken her to the crematorium. To me, her death, the actual event, never happened. It’s her absence that I experienced.
To say I haven’t fully admitted its occurrence is obvious. To assume I’m upset about it is a fucking understatement. I’m pissed. Upset. Tortured. I think about it endlessly, and most of the time not at all in a happy or healthy way. I obsess over our final moments together. If you see me there’s about 99% chance I’m paying less than half attention to whatever the fuck you’re saying and doing. Unless I’m asleep, I’m back somewhere in the recesses of my memory, doing everything I can to get whichever moment I’m lost in to overwhelm this hellscape and envelope in the same happiness and love I haven’t felt in two years.
So yeah, if someone offered to take the best parts of what’ve I’ve been doing and make it realer, make it more tangible, I’d do it. I want to do it. Get me out of here and give me some time to relive those memories that feel more fleeting every time I try to find them. Let all of my senses, not just a tiny section of my brain, experience the love that only she could give. Do you know how often my back physically aches because it hasn’t felt her arms in two years? Please, give me something that’ll alleviate that.