I have a friend whose hobbies include YouTubing phone calls when people are dying: 9/11 calls, girls trapped in a car, etc., etc.. We’ve come to laugh about this, not just because of the morbidity involved but I think because of the absurdity of the situation. Let me use this story to illuminate what I mean before you judge me as a terrible person.
In Russia, a girl and her step-father went back to get a fishing rod they had left along the river they had been fishing at when a mother bear and her three cubs attacked them. The mother bear overwhelmed Igor Tsyganenkov, broke his neck and smashed his skull. Terrified, Olga Moskalyova turned to run away but was unable to outrun the mother bear who began to give chase and with one fell swoop was brough down. Upon being brought down, the mother bear and her cubs began to literally eat Olga alive.
That’s when Olga, whilst the bears began feasting on her, called her mother :
News.com.au: She screamed: ‘Mum, the bear is eating me! Mum, it’s such agony. Mum, help!’
Her mother Tatiana said that at first she thought she was joking.
‘But then I heard the real horror and pain in Olga’s voice, and the sounds of a bear growling and chewing,’ she added. ‘I could have died then and there from shock.’
Tatiana, unaware that the bear had already killed her husband, tried calling his phone, then police and relatives. During the attack, it is said Olga called her mother three times. Each time more desperate than the other…
In a second call, a weak Olga gasped: ‘Mum, the bears are back. She came back and brought her three babies. They’re… eating me.’
Finally, in her last call – almost an hour after the first – Olga sensed she was on the verge of death.
With the bears having apparently left her to die, she said: ‘Mum, it’s not hurting any more. I don’t feel the pain. Forgive me for everything, I love you so much.’
Igor’s brother arrived to find the mother bear still eating Igor’s body, and Olga was dead. Six hunter had been sent in to kill the bears, this only being the latest in recent bear attacks in Russia.
This is an ontological obscenity; death cannot be repeated, you die only once, though when it is mechanically recorded and preserved, you can hear that death again and again. A photograph of someone dying is different than a medium that captures a duration of time, and no duration is as unique as the passage of life to death
There’s incredible pathos to a recording of an actual death, but also incredible absurdity. A recording acts as objective counterpart to memory, but it’s a metaphysical paradox. By listening to someone dying, we violate death’s nature, which is to be experienced once, by one person, never to be repeated.
We laugh, then—my friend and I—in part due to this obscene violation, a strange transgression of the limits of reality. Similar to accidents caught on tape—funny kind of accidents, like people falling, okay?—these fleeting events are not in any way meant to be repeated, but we still live in the age of mechanical arts, and there is something definitely funny about how some of these moments are preserved. But there is also something profoundly sad about the way they died too…