Hope this isn’t too depressing. Just needed to ramble about something that’s been on my mind. Some of this might not make sense…
I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately. I’ve been waking up at least a couple times per week with these somewhat vague but very intense thoughts about dying and what it’s like and what it means. This has happened to me before but never with such intensity and frequency. It’s as though someone wants me to understand it better, to realize that it’s going to happen sooner or later and that there’s a very real chance that no matter when it is it will feel too soon.
I’ve been told I’m a negative guy but I refuse to believe that. I think when someone accuses me of seeing the glass as half empty they’re the ones being negative because they’re labeling my neutral observation of the human condition as negative. (This is my way of saying that if you think what I’m about to say is negative you’re wrong). The fact is that we are all dying. Some of us more quickly than others. Some of us will die in a few years due to an accident or something else completely uncontrollable that ends our life before we expected it to be ended. I understand that some might be inclined to rebut with a pithy, sentimental idea like “I’m not dying, I’m living!” to which I’m sure they’d like to add an “asshole.” This is very nice and very true. We should be embracing every moment and loving with everything we have and challenging ourselves and doing all that goes along with leading a full life. But why are we so concerned with living a full life? Because this is it. Soon, we will all have to leave.
Have you ever realized (not that this is a revelation for most people, but I’d never really thought of it this way until tonight) that human beings are the only creatures- not only on Earth, but in the known universe- who are aware of and have to cope with the idea that they will one day die? I’ve heard it said a different way, of course, that human beings are aware of their mortality, but for some reason that word doesn’t strike a nerve for me. I love life, don’t get me wrong. But, my friend, I am also dying. Everything does. I was once much closer to my friend Anthony. He’s one of my best friends. We used to hang out all the time in middle school and I now speak to him about once a month. I was once in love with a girl who didn’t love me the same way. Those feelings I once had for her are gone now. My sisters and I used to play in a blue playhouse my grandpa built when I was about five years old. It still stands in the back yard of a house on the corner of Ewing Place and Ewing Court in Virginia Beach. You can see it on Google maps. I’m fairly certain it’s been well over a decade since anyone’s set foot in it.
Death is the end. Nothing can change it or bring you back from it. It’s the biggest change that we make and it’s the most final one. I think that’s why I fear death- because I fear change. I love my family so much that I want to stay twenty-two forever, keep my parents at fifty-one and my sisters at twenty and nineteen. I wish we could be together as a family and never grow apart, never lose touch and I feel the same way about my friends. A couple years ago we had to put our dog Bear down. He died with his head in my lap. I’ve not cried that hard very many times in my life. One day not far from now our dog Scout will die somehow too. My grandma whom I love so dearly will go for some reason and so will my grandpa. Eventually it will be my parents, me, my sisters, my wife (if anyone takes the job), and so on.
Why does it have to be like this? I’m a firm believer in Jesus but I don’t care what you believe about God or life after death- the point is eventually we’re not here anymore. One day we wake up and it’s the last time we’ll ever have the pleasure of doing so.
I’m sure you’ve had a philosophy class or discussion or something where someone brought up the thought, “How would you describe colors to a blind person?” The answer is you wouldn’t, or more precisely, you couldn’t. And have you ever thought about how if there were no such thing as light- if all we ever knew was a pitch black world- we would have no understanding of either “light” or “dark”? Similarly, the only reason we have a concept in our realm of experience of that thing we call “life” is because we also have its opposite, “death.” Think about it. All those things that we (“we” meaning any rational human who’s taken time to get their priorities straight) feel are important to having a full life- living in the moment, not valuing material things, loving others, adventure, hope, challenging ourselves, bettering ourselves, education, poetry, art, music, laughing- everything that makes life worth living is only given value because we die. Because one day I won’t be able to ask you to go on a picnic with me, or ask you how your wife is doing, or tell you that it’s going to be OK and he was a douche bag anyway and that eventually the hurt will go away.
I believe that, while all of us have more specific purposes, every human being was put on the Earth to learn something. That something is learning how to die. We’re the only creatures that can benefit from knowing our time here is temporary. Maybe there’s something after this. But it won’t be this and even if that something after this is infinitely more beautiful it makes this no less beautiful. Death is something we get very upset about. We get mad at God, or, if you don’t believe in God, the natural order. But no matter how hard it is to do I think we need to rethink our beef with God (or the natural order) and thank Him (or it) instead. I don’t want to die. I don’t want you to die either. But the fact remains that if we didn’t die, we’d never live. And that’s why life is such a beautiful gift and I will gladly die attempting to make sure it doesn’t go to waste.