Five things “Harry Potter” has taught me about death
Whether you’ve grown up alongside the Potter series, come to it in your later years, or are just starting to read the first couple of pages in Sorcerer’s Stone, I think it’s safe to say that you’re going to find yourself with more take-aways than you have the time to sort through (or maybe you’ll find the time and make a blog post about it!). My experience with the wizarding world – paralleled by midnight book releases and the making of fan sites like MuggleNet – has without a doubt helped to shape the way I think about a lot of things, as any true “coming of age” story does.
As someone who basically reeked of “teen angst” as a kid, I can remember feeling a lot like Harry, a lot of the time: angry, helpless, and without justice or control of anything happening in my life. My mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness at an early stage in my life – and while this made reading some of the sad parts really, really difficult (I’m still getting over Sirius— ALL DA FEELZ!) – I’m really glad I had Harry Potter to relate to. And while I don’t think anything can truly prepare you for the loss of a loved one, here are some of the things Harry has taught me about death:
You can move past death. Famous philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Growth from tragedy is one of the most prevalent reoccurring themes in the Potter series, and poor Harry is subject to this time and time again. Harry prevails despite the death of his parents, his godfather Sirius, Dobby, and countless others whom he loves. Dumbledore, a true father figure to Harry, leaves in his last will and testament to Harry the Snitch he caught in his first Quidditch match as a reminder of “the rewards of perseverance and strength”; he fully expects Harry to carry on in his fight against the Dark Lord after he has died, and Harry continues to do just that. Remembering that our loved ones want us to continue on will help us to in turn carry on.
Those who love us never really leave us. One of the most powerful moments in the Potter books and one that has helped to get me through the loss of my own mother has been when Sirius tells Harry, “It’s cruel that I got to spend so much time with James and Lily, and you so little. But know this: the ones that love us never really leave us. And you can always find them in here [puts his hand to Harry’s heart].” (To say that I sobbed like a child would be an understatement.) And when Harry decides to confront Voldemort (and ultimately death) in the Forbidden Forest, he asks the ghosts of his loved ones why they are there, to which his mother replies, “We never left.” It’s important to remember that those who we have lost in this life never truly leave us as long as we keep them in our hearts and in our memories.
Death cannot be cheated. In an attempt to cheat death, the second brother from “The Tale of the Three Brothers” asks for the power to “recall others from Death,” to which he is presented with the resurrection stone. The stone is used to resurrect the girl he had hoped to marry before her death. However, he finds her cold and sad and feeling seemingly out of place and hangs himself out of hopeless desperation.
Dumbledore tells Harry that death is “but the next great adventure” and tells Voldemort that his “failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been [his] greatest weakness.” It is said over and over again throughout the books that death should not be feared; it is inevitable. We should not fear death, for this will only rob us of our opportunity to enjoy life.
Happiness can be found in the darkest of times. To quote Dumbledore (noticing a pattern here?), “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Harry refuses to give up or quit, not when his friends tell him to and not when Voldemort tells him to. He uses the things that have happened to him to fuel his cause, and this is a huge reminder to us all that we can make a choice to look at things in a positive light, regardless of our circumstance or situation.
Pain is manageable. Harry endures more pain and loss in his early years than most people experience in their entire lives. And even though that pain may never completely subside, Harry learns to manage it with the help of his friends. Harry’s ambition and drive to succeed and follow through to the very end, coupled with his reliance on Ron and Hermione, allow him to push through the tough times and fight on. The pain that comes with death and loss is irreparable, but it is something one can learn to deal with, with the right attitude and support. As the very last line in Deathly Hallows reads, “The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.”