Themes in Population: 485

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Michael Perry introduces several themes throughout Population: 485. Love, pain and acceptance are all touched upon in his memoir, but one that seems to stick out and is brought up again and again is death. As a volunteer firefighter, most of the connections he makes with the people of his community are caused by responding to emergency accident and fire calls- many of which result in death. In our culture, and every culture, death is an inevitable fact of life. We all, at some point in our lives, are going to encounter the death of someone close to us. Whether it will be a family member, friend or ourselves, young or old, it is going to happen and we will have to face it. Death affects everyone differently and the way we cope with loss varies with every person and with every culture. When the majority of us think of death, we see someone old and sick, frail and weak. While mourning the loss of a loved one is never easy, regardless of age or cause of death, losing a young friend or family member is an even more challenging reality to face. It is often the unexpected losses that don’t make sense. We ask ourselves “Why?” “Why did this happen?” and try to bring meaning to the tragedy. “Surely we can’t die just because we hit a patch of pebbles on a curve. Surely there is preordination in the pea gravel. We are creatures of myth, hungry for metaphor and allegory, but most of all, hungry for sense.” (p. 132). This is one of the ways our culture copes with death. We refuse to believe that a young person could die so quickly and meaninglessly and we are swift to find a reason behind it all. In reality though, there is no answer. Seven years ago a close friend of mine died due to injuries caused by a motorcycle accident. He was twenty years old. It was a painful experience that left me questioning my faith and asking why such a good person was taken away at such a young age. I did try to find reasoning behind it, but never really came up with an answer....
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