If you think about your own death daily, why? What do you think?
I think about my own death around 3-4 times a week. It’s not daily, but it’s frequent. Although, I’ve been thinking about it and noticing death references a lot the last few days. I’m not sure how much of that is Halloween/end of the year coverage or how much is me just paying attention and tuning in to what is already out there in the world.
I turned 36 in July. My grandmother died when she was 72, and that has given me a superstitious apprehension of 36 – the idea that my life is now half-way over, that I have less of my life remaining than I have already lived. Rationally, I know that isn’t true – but it’s hard making my heart believe it. There are other things recently that have reinforced this feeling of inevitably – high school (elementary school) classmates dying; M’s beard turning gray; the sad realization that I shouldn’t worry so much about getting pregnant on an IUD because I’ve already crossed the “advanced maternal age” threshold; breaking a bone in my foot and feeling generally fragile. All these little moments, stray thoughts that add up to “I’m getting old” which is then a direct jump to “I’m going to die, sooner rather than later.”
I’ve been reading books about, or prominently featuring, death this year as well: The Fault in Our Stars, When Breath Becomes Air, Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death, Being Mortal. A recurring theme throughout them is that we, as a culture, avoid the idea of death. Or maybe more accurately, we avoid the idea that we or the people we love are going to die. And so, when the time comes, we proceed in a state of denial and often fail to make the most of the time we have, leaving us with regrets or unresolved grief.
I don’t want that. I want to leave this world in the best way I can. I don’t want to leave my family behind in turmoil. I want to educate myself so that when I need to make hard decisions, I will have more information and less pressure. I don’t want to suffer. I want to die in peace, in love, with as few regrets as I can manage. And I want the same things for my parents, my friends, my husband. We are all getting older. Some of us will die sooner, some later, but eventually we are all going to die. Avoiding that, or trying to deny it, doesn’t serve any of us.