Thursday, May 31, 2012

My new relationship with death

I heard an author (I didn't catch his name) on the radio yesterday talking about death, and his perspective on it since he'd been diagnosed with cancer. He said he thought that until we experience death in a very real and personal way, death is more of an abstract concept to us. I can say that what he said rings very true to me. My own relationship with death has changed dramatically in the last five months. This shows itself in the following ways:

1. My reaction to the deaths of strangers. Yesterday here in Seattle, a man went on a rampage and killed five people (another is in critical condition and is not expected to survive). I did not know any of the victims or their immedate families. But I sure as hell have a window into what they're going through today and will be going through for months (years) to come. That has given me a whole new empathy for those who experience the terrible, sudden, and utterly senseless loss of a loved one. And news like this affects in me in ways it never did before.

2. My feelings about my own mortality. Like any healthy person, I have a strong sense of survival. I do not want to die, nor have I ever seriously felt differently, not even in the wake of Aimee's death. But, there have definistely been days since then when I wasn't so sure I'd fight death off if faced with it. We all know life can be incredibly difficult and cruel at times, and the longer I'm alive and the more I see the more true I realize that assessment of our world is. There are days when I most certainly look forward to not being here anymore, and instead being in the afterlife promised to me, reunited with those I've lost and miss.

3. How I live while I'm still alive. There's a bit of a paradox here. I want to be less restrained in how I live. I want to do more things, show more emotions, help more people, travel to new places, and in general maximize the experience of being alive. On the other hand, I find myself becoming increasingly cautious in some ways. My poor little girl has already lost her mother, and I can't imagine what it would mean to her if she lost me while she is still young (a child). I feel an immense responsibility to stay alive for her sake. Yes, I felt that before, but there was always Aimee as a 'backup'. Now there's just me. I know there are still people to love Rowan and care for her, and they would do a great job. But I STRONGLY believe she should have a parent in her life as long as possible. Just as I've said repeatedly no one (not even I) can be her mommy, no one else can be me for her. I have to be here to be her daddy.

All of which means I've decided to pass on my dream of learning to ride a motorcycle.

In all seriousness, I never spent much time praying for my own personal safety (except right before I went skydiving a few years ago) until recently. Now I do so frequently, for Rowan's sake.

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