I think about death alot. I always have. I learned early on that this wasn't normal, so I never shared that information with others very often, except my Dad. I don't think that makes me weird or morbid; I think it makes me realistic.
I remember being really young, maybe about six or seven, and wondering why everyone around me wasn't talking about death all the time. It seemed to me that all the adults I knew acted as if death would never happen. They lived their lives without any attention paid to the elephant in the room - their inevitable death. That stunned me. I guess if I'm honest, it still does. When I was a child I would often lie in my bed, or in the grass in the yard, and look up, eyes open, and repeat to myself over and over "I am alive right now, in this moment, but someday I'll be dead." It didn't scare me or upset me. It kind of fascinated and motivated me. I became hyper aware of being alive, and it made all my experiences very vivid.
I was never afraid of death until I became a mom. Once that happened, the terror set in. I wasn't afraid for myself, but for her. I lost sleep over my fear of leaving her alone on this earth. I still do sometimes. Just this morning, I lay in bed at 4:30am with the light just starting to come in the window. I watched her face, traced its familiar geography with my eyes and felt that inexplicable awareness that some day in the future I would not be here to bear witness to this beauty. It took my breath away for a moment.
I've experienced the death of many friends and family over the years. I've been present with people I love in the days before they died, watching them, praying over them, listening. There is a rare co-mingling of worlds in those days leading up to someone's death. It's as if that permanent sheath between that world and this lifts, delicately and carefully, for a time. And a sweet, momentary scent of eternity envelopes us. Then it is gone, as quickly and inconspicuously as it came.
When we acknowledge death - its certainty - we are really acknowledging now. This. Here. When we allow ourselves to feel the truth of that impermanence, it cradles us into the present moment . It holds a mirror up to us. here. now.
Someday we will die. There is no if about it. We will. We will cease to be in this form, on this earth. And what does that mean? it means, by God, we ought to live every minute with perfect love and forgiveness and joy and awareness. Every material thing will pass away. Why do we bother with all those trappings? They mean nothing. Why do we not value people and relationships above all else at all times? Its all that will endure, so why put our time and energy and focus on ANYTHING else? That is something I have never understood and never will.
I want to live the most honest and truthful life I can, every single day. I want to value connection with others over all else. And I wish others to do the same. I want the minutes of my life to be made up of gestures that speak to that want. I want my life to be a singular and unmissable witness to my daughter of what Love is. And when I fail at it, I want to forgive myself and start again immediately, with no time wasted on guilt or worry. We're human; we make mistakes. But we need to reach past them and grab hands with any of those further up the path, who can guide us.
I hope that death takes me a long time from now. I don't know when or how it will embrace me, but I hope I feel completely spent, exhausted and ready when it comes. And I hope my life speaks to my daughter then - speaks of the most important things death can teach us: to live every day with great love, to listen every day with great love, and to express as much real gratitude as our hearts can muster while we're here.