“Death is our friend precisely because it brings us into absolute and passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love,”Rilke wrote in contemplating how befriending our mortality can help us feel more alive. Nearly a century later, John Updike echoed this sentiment:“Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead. So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?” And yet however poetic this notion might be, it remains one of the hardest for us to befriend and reconcile with our irrepressible impulse for aliveness. How, then, are those only just plunging into the lush river of life to confront the prospect of its flow’s cessation?
The German children’s book author and illustrator Wolf Erlbruch offers a wonderfully warm and assuring answer in Duck, Death and the Tulip
One day, Duck turns around to find Death standing behind her. Terrified, she asks whether he has come to take her, but he remarks rather matter-of-factly that he has been there her entire life.