Life’s Wake-Up Call
Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. And yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, or five times more? Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless…– Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky
I’ve been thinking about death a lot recently… and not for the first time. But this time is different. I’m pondering mortality in a healthy way, I think.
At this point I’ve already survived the child stage where I don’t really grasp what life is, not even well enough to consider asking the question. I’ve been the teenager whose life was “over” or worth ending by my own hand because the person I liked or the thing I desperately wanted didn’t end up being mine. I’ve been the young adult whose whole life was ahead of them, wondering what I might do and doubting that I was really qualified to be in charge of guiding my own destiny.
I’m finally at the age now where I’ve chosen a direction, built a life, shared it with another person, brought some lives into the world, and watched others that were important to me leave the world behind.
Last week I was paralyzed by grief. This week I’m thankful for reminders of how fragile and temporary and precious life is.
It makes me appreciate that I won’t always be here, nor will anyone else. I have to accept that my own children might not outlive me, and that I might not live to see their children. There’s no way to know.
Grief is difficult to endure, more so if your response to it is to continue to harbour the fear of loss deep in the back of your mind. It compromises your attention. It reduces your involvement in the present. It saps away the richness of the here and now in the same way that a positive attitude adds colour and depth to human experience.
I want everyone and everything I love to live forever and ever, and sometimes I live as if that premise were fact. Grief is a reorientation to reality; a necessary reminder of impermanence and the necessity to enjoy what is while it still is. Including ourselves.