NaBloPo Day 1: Memento Mori

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.

NaBloPoMo 2016: WBYD

This is a courtesy call from management – NaBloPoMo2016 will be starting in a week, and I’m planning to participate.

A few years ago I purchased a set of writing prompts from Gwen Bell called “Write Before You Die.”  It was a set of 365 questions aimed at examining your life through the writing process before you (no surprise here) die.

[A fourth member of my high school class died last week in a car wreck.]

This is when the veil thins, the liminal time when the light goes out and the darkness rises to envelope the world.  It seems right, now, to look at these questions.  To examine life, and what it means, and what it means to me.

[One of my friends’ children has entered palliative care.  We’ve known for 7 years that she had a terminal condition, but it was always “someday.”  Now, someday is here and no god has stepped forward to make me a stone.]

Of the 365 prompts, I’ve pulled out 30.  This isn’t in exact order, but here is what I’ll be writing about next month.  Feel free to join me in this introspection and conversation about life and death.

  1. Where do you want your final resting place?
  2. What should they do with your body?
  3. What would you enjoy doing – even once, even badly – before you die?
  4. What music should they play at your funeral?
  5. If you *could* take it with you – just one suitcase – what goes in the case?
  6. If you think about your own death daily, why?  What do you think?
  7. Now that you’re old, how old is old?
  8. Describe a relationship or friendship you’ve had for 10 years.  20? 30?
  9. Do you think you had a previous life?  How did it go?
  10. What about dying scares you?
  11. What’s better: a fast death or slow? Planned or unplanned?
  12. How many funerals have you attended so far (total)? Which had the most impact?
  13. Where you baptized?  Christened? Handed to god as a child?
  14. Do you ever visit cemeteries or places where the deceased dwell?
  15. How would you live your life if you didn’t die?
  16. Where do you want to see before you die?
  17. What of value will you leave behind?
  18. Is it the shortness of life, or its longness, that you feel most days?
  19. When was the last time you witnessed someone die?
  20. What should they eat at your funeral?
  21. Have you lived through any natural disasters?
  22. Did you become what the child version of you wanted to become?
  23. How’d you stop caring what other people thought about you?
  24. If a burial, what goes on your headstone?
  25. Are you an organ donor?
  26. Have you made peace with your own mortality? How?
  27. Is there any paperwork you need to fill out before you die?
  28. When you’re dead, will that email matter? The 401k?  Your phone?  What *will* matter?
  29. Where do you want to take your final breath?
  30. What question have we not asked that you want to answer?  Ask it now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

09 red

I had a surprisingly hard time with this prompt.  There is a lot of red in and around my life, but nothing that would make a good picture.  It didn’t help that it drizzled on and off all day and the light was not good pretty much anywhere. 

I also admit that I’m a little embarrassed to stop and take random photos out in public.  Even with this one, taken in a camera store at the end of the day, I was so self concious that I snapped it and left rather than finding a better angle to show the individual blossoms.  Engaging in creativity still presses all my vulnerability buttons.

07 beneath my feet 

The long run doesn’t care.  It doesn’t care that you’re tired, that you’re scared, that you’re angry, that you didn’t sleep well, that you have a tweaky muscle in your left foot, that you didn’t have time for your short runs during the week.

The long run is 2 or 3 or 4 hours of you with only yourself for company.  There is no internet, there is no phone, there is no family, there is no job on the long run.  There is you and the miles ticking by and that’s it.  The long run is the trail, the sweat, the sky overhead and the mind becoming more and more empty.

The long run is confession, absolution, and penance, all in itself.  The long takes whatever you bring with you and grinds it down into nothingness.  The long run absorbs.  The long run cleanses.  The long run shows you how insignificant whatever it was really is.