Death: The Deluxe Edition includes a series of short stories regarding Neil Gaiman's Sandman character, Death. Those stories include:
1) The Sound of Her Wings - from Sandman #8
2) Facade - from The Sandman #20
3) Winter's Take - from Winter's Edge #2
4) The High Cost of Living (reviewed here)
5) The Time of Your Life (reviewed here)
6) Death and Venice - from The Sandman: Endless Nights
7) Death Talks About Life
In this blog article, we'll look at two of those stories which touch upon the big question of meaning, rather than offering a complete overview of what happens.
The short is about a rock star named Foxglove, who is forced to re-examine what is meaningful in life by facing death. Not necessarily her own death, but the possible demise of everyone around her. First, her manager dies and warns her that she needs to do precisely what Hazel (her girlfriend) tells her to do. So what is Hazel's request? Simply that Foxglove comes home immediately. Being too busy with her work, her glorious rockstar life, Foxglove doesn't even consider it... at least at first.
Eventually, Foxglove chooses to return home. But unfortunately, she comes back to an empty house—both Hazel and Alvie (her baby) are gone. So Foxglove decides to search where no one else would think to search—the borderlands between life and death. Apparently, a few years back, Alvie died, and to have a bit more time with him, Hazel struck up a deal with Death. The price of life for Alvie would come at the cost of death for another. That is, one person from the team's entourage would have to take Alvie's place.
Death, while speaking with Hazel about the important things in life, says the following:
It's the moments that illuminate it, though. The times you don't see when you're having them... They make the rest of it matter.
Death in referring to those times in our life that we often take for granted. As if we'd live forever, as if the universe had some obligation to us to provide us with extra time with loved ones that we never truly appreciated, with additional special moments of joy to replace those we've forgotten. But it doesn't. Death reminds of us that. The universe has no obligation to us. But because we are so caught up in living, we fail to truly see what matters.
Foxglove who has been so caught up being a celebrity gives it all up to live a normal life with Hazel. Somewhat ironically, however, she thinks to herself near of the story:
And sitting there, listening to her, it occurred to me that the whole of art--maybe the whole of life--is just spray-painting your name on a wall, hoping that someone will see it after you've gone. And kids are to make sure that there's someone around who'll remember you when you're not around anymore.
Overall, it is an entertaining romp from Neil Gaiman, as he does what he does best, makes us think about those marginal islands between fact and fiction, between life and death, between night and day; Gaiman just so happens also to help us see that fame and fortune aren't everything. Life, love, and everything in between, however, may be.
This story is also of course written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Mark Buckingham and Chris Bachalo. It is about a 16-year-old who is seriously thinking of suicide. He writes a letter to his mom which in part says, I mean, there's no point to anything. And if there's no point, you might as well be dead.
Venturing outside to the junkyard after writing the letter, Sexton slips, falls, and finds himself beneath a refrigerator... with the face of Death smiling upon him. She helps to patch him up and get him back on track. Sexton reluctantly goes on a small adventure with her, and through this he discovers that life is not so pointless after all.
Gaiman also brilliantly creates a world in which Death gets to experience life for a single day every century, in order for her to better understand that which she takes. On this, Death says to herself reflecting on the day that just ended, Oh, it was wonderful. It was filled with people. I got to breathe and eat and... all sorts of stuff. I wish it could have gone on forever. I wish it didn't have to end like that... Death replies, It always ends. That's what gives it value.
The moral of the story? Life has its good parts, and its bad. Yet, when looking at life as a whole and as a finite entity, it has both meaning and value. Overall, another gripping story about life and Death by Neil Gaiman. This one is a must read.