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Three episodes before the series finale of Lost, after witnessing the deaths of three beloved main characters, I thought to myself, "Oh, no—they're all going to die." At this point, so few original survivors of Oceanic 815 remained that the hope of anybody leaving the island alive seemed implausible.

I was glad that the finale didn't play out quite the way I had feared. But I was still sort of right: Everybody was going to die. Sometime, whether we saw it on screen or not.

I'm realizing that the entire series can be seen as a six-year meditation on how human beings approach death. In the pilot, death struck unexpectedly with a plane crash on a Pacific island. And every episode to follow dealt in some way with desperate efforts to live and avoid death.

At the beginning, the primary needs were survival. Food, water, shelter. Jack, Kate, Locke, Sawyer, and all the rest worked together to take care of the wounded and to help one another survive the island's threats. The goal was to avoid death and to get home.

Even though many unnamed redshirts and minor characters died in season 1, it wasn't until the first main cast death [Boone] that viewers realized that not all of these survivors were going to make it off the island. And the Grim Reaper has steadily cut his way through the cast members each season. Some deaths were foreshadowed, like a looming terminal illness. But others came suddenly, without warning. Death is unpredictable.

As the series progressed, we as viewers reacted with all of the common responses of grief. I often found myself in denial. After the heart-wrenching season three finale, I kept hoping, "Maybe he [Charlie] isn't really dead. He survived somehow. We'll find out next season that he's okay." Many fans ...

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What 'Lost' Taught Us about Dying Well
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May 2010

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