Death Sucks, Man

Justin LaBarge

Here’s something about which I am certain. Death sucks.

It’s not a new or original notion. Yet it’s something which gets reminded and reinforced in me. And I hate to say it, but this is pretty dark thinking.

I say it’s easy to talk about HOW DEATH SUCKS. We all know how it sucks. We can see evidence everywhere – real AND imagined.

Instead, I reflect on why it sucks. Because I’ll tell you – I haven’t considered this in a long time.

It was 1998. A close family friend died. My childhood’s best friend’s mom. Rita was her name. I was just learning about death, and the lesson came from my dad. When Rita passed I asked in earnest, “Dad, what on earth can I do about all this?”

I can still hear the way he said these words.

“There’s nothing to do.”  …

‘Nothing you CAN do.’

And just then the door for me opened for how death sucks. 

Death is coming. And there is NOTHING TO DO about it. Holy shit.

A wave of denial slid into a pit of despair, greased by a dose of anger, only to slowly seep into a muddy pile of surrender. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, author of the famous book On Death and Dying, calls this process “Learning to Live with the One We Lost.”

Rita’s passing was a test of my basic survival instincts crashing like waves on the rocky shores on the lonely island of undeniable truth: there’s nothing we can do about it.

Death sucks, man.


It was the weekend of September 30, 2017. It marked the passing of George Brusard, Jeffrey McIntyre … and 58 Las Vegas country music fans. Death really sucks.

My first impression of George was a burly man who wore his Harley Davidson attire as his badge of honor. I knew him as gregarious and bighearted. I learned what for him matters most in life, his current foray in life’s many struggles, and that I can count on his loyalty. He made me laugh and feel good, and in return I gave him the gift of my trust. I believe he took this with him to his final moment.

Believe me when I say that you want a friend like George. I don’t care who you are or where you come from.

Jeffrey McIntyre was a master at what he did. He earned the honor and respect from all those around him. As a devout Buddhist, he pioneered healing methods for addiction and recovery, and championed many causes. He was one of the first Family Therapists (if you can imagine such a time). He was a thought leader on the topic of “emotional intelligence,” and brought healing, hope and redemption for untold communities of people.

There’s not a single person alive that can serve humanity in the way Jeffrey did. And he did so selflessly. I like to think his calling was of contribution to a greater good, uniting us all.

My words describe who they were for me.

And now – who they are for me is death.

Void of something or anything. As a human, death has quite a bit of meaning – whether my faith, philosophy, or rationalization. The only opinion that I cannot hold is indifference. I don’t mean “indifference” – for that too is a place to stand. I cannot be devoid of any meaning regarding death. And this is a problem.

Because that is exactly what death is. Naught. It is meaningless unto itself, and that the fact that it is, is also meaningless. Utterly in disregard for how I FEEL. Death sucks, you see. Have I convinced you yet?

And see, there in lies the trap. The only way for death NOT to suck, the only way I can truly “be” with death outside any realm of judgement on my own part, is to be already dead. And I’m not at all there yet.

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas a man with zero imaginable motive and every imaginable weapon ruthlessly terminated many innocent victims, and wounding scores more.

Clint: Hell of a thing killing a man. You take away all he’s got, all he’s ever gonna have.

Kid: Yeah … well I guess he had it comin’

Clint: We all go t it comin’, kid.


I watch as media and society tried to come to grips – falling to the temptation of explaining WHY. This exercise in futility can only be thoughtfully made with the assumption that this tragic event should not have happened – so we need to find the motive, and find the words to in order to grasp its meaning. 

As Clint Eastwood once espoused – we all got it comin’, kid. Our driving needs for reasons and rationalizations serve only our sake – the LIVING. There are no answers.

And for this reason as well – this is how death sucks.

Death not only removes the possibility of loved ones to be HERE with us, but any notion of future possibilities. To me, this could be the greatest reason. Death has taken from me both George and Jeffrey – not just today, but in perpetuity.

Death sucks and you know it. Don’t even try to tell me otherwise.


Reflecting back to my father’s lesson on death, this was was also the moment I learned another lesson: Dad was right. About this, and really about everything. Now I understood. Death sucks – and that’s exactly the stuff which guided his decisions. The enormity of concern which drove him. And why I never understood any of it until that moment. Over the phone. Discussing Rita’s passing. I got my father.

Old, pent-up adolescent anger, held in hard-packed reserve against the old man – I just let it go. And my dad once again became my hero.

I believe in the end, in our own way – we all get measured. And for me, that it happens before I die. Because when I pass, and I exchange a full, purposeful life for a legacy worthy of my father.

And I will be sure to pass this on.

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