Whoa, whoa – wait a second. No excusing yourself to the powder room right now. Stay with me.
I know you’re asking yourself why the hell, in the middle of long-awaited sweater weather, in the midst of post C-word revival, am I pushing this topic?
Because Fall always comes. But just because we are back to frolicking in the leaves and bathing in all things apple and pumpkin, not everything that was thriving last year will return again.
I am aware that this is a seat squirming topic, but I’d like you to consider why that is. Nothing is more inevitable than death. It is the one guarantee we can count on, so why are we so shocked, unprepared and in denial of something so true and clear?
Why? Because, well… death.
Death calls us out. It puts the spotlight on procrastination and what we haven’t done yet even though we’ve had the time. Because it reminds us of how little control we have over the things that matter most.
Don’t get me wrong, I loathe the concept of being finite, of everyone’s unknown but at some point impending expiration date. I ask myself often that if I die tomorrow will I be satisfied with what I’ve accomplished? If the answer is no, I am the one accountable for that and no one else.
I had a writing teacher who would hold discussions about procrastination and why we don’t write even though it’s what we want to do. He would say, “We’re all going to die, soooo…”
I’m not afraid to talk about death or about the strategy leading up to it. In fact, I’m sure others find it weird. But it’s a real thing that can’t be changed, like too much body hair or lack of rhythm.
I ask myself if my kids are prepared to live without me. Who will they call for advice on handling relationships, negotiating jobs, choosing new iPhones? Have I taught them not to buy swamp land in Florida and how to avoid email scamming?
We have all had loss. I lost a close friend in 9/11. My kids lost four grandparents in less than 4 years. My parents died within 8 months of each other. And here’s a huge newsflash – no one prepares you for the loss of parents.
Each of my parent’s deaths were very different experiences for me, yet had similarities.
When I got the call about my mother, which I knew would eventually happen, I was relieved. I had thought about this call every day. We had been estranged for 15 years, but I was an only child. There was no one else to get the call but me. I revisited my choice often, and I was prepared. She never cared for her own health so it was just a matter of time.
I expected it would happen, just not when it did.
When my dad was dying over the course of his last year, I flew from Boston to South Carolina as often as I could afford. I’d ask him pompous, cerebral questions searching for information I wouldn’t be able to get from him when he left me.
During our brief visits together he would attempt to get through the days with me in a normal fashion, trying so hard not to let his disdain for his emasculating oxygen tank rise to the surface. We would focus on the moments of connection, making memories. It was all we could do, really.
But then he and my stepmom would drop me at the airport. I’d hug and kiss them, wave goodbye. Before I was through the sliding door I’d be bawling. By the time I got to the security area – which doesn’t take long in those charming little Southern airports – I’d be pretty close to hyperventilating, triggered by the lack of control and helplessness I felt.
Would I remember what he looked like, what his voice sounded like, how he took his coffee? What if I didn’t get to see him again? It was a solid possibility and I knew one of these visits would be the last. And that was a guarantee.
So I’d wait at the gate for my flight and choose the dates for my next trip.
I am aware of death and how it happens without checking our calendars for our availability. But even when I got the inevitable call that October, I still wasn’t fully expecting it. The phone woke me out of a deep sleep and I immediately started sobbing. This time I knew what was waiting on the other side of the call.
I know you won’t walk away from this prepared for your own demise or anyone else’s. At the very least, ask yourself, what do I want to do before I die? What did I take off of my plate in the last 18 months that I secretly didn’t want part of anyway? And how will I stop from putting it back on my docket?
Then go plant the seeds.
Expect death. Make time. Spend time. Don’t waste time.
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Photo cred: rikka ameboshi