“We’re all gonna die!”
That is apparently the mentality that is supposed to consume me. Death, after all, is the second greatest fear. Public speaking is number one. Yet neither of those worries me all that much.
I tend to take the approach to death that Lincoln took four years before he was assassinated.
If they kill me, I shall never die another death.
Folks do not wish to be put underground before their time either. In the nineteenth century, a few new caskets were invented. Their goal was to keep their residents from being buried alive. Some would allow for the casket lid to be opened if the person regained their capacities and wanted out. Other containers allowed for air to be cycled through while the encased called for help.
At the simpler level, it has been said that rich people would have a bell attached to their coffin. A hired hand would sit by the grave and wait for any signals. If the bell rang, they went for help and would extricate their master.
Granted, there are internet videos to tell you how to escape if buried alive. Yet I think we should hope to avoid that scenario altogether. While I shirk most risks, I have still done a foolish thing or two.
A few years ago I decided to try out skydiving. I was wondering if fear would kick in at the last moment. I was going by myself. There were no friends to pressure me with calls of, “Do it, Bro! Take the plunge! YOLO!
(My irritation at the phrase, “YOLO”, is shared with skydiving instructors. “For a year, every single person was yelling that. We get it. You only live once. Just… stop.” Their annoyance only made me trust the folks with the parachutes that much more.)
I sat at the edge of the plane door. I looked down at the miles and miles of sky between me and the ground. “Well, too late to back out now. If you die, you die.” That was it. That was my opportunity to fear for my life and it never really kicked in.
Pain is different. I have a healthy respect for pain. I had a bigger concern for breaking my legs than I did for dying. I dislike dental work because I remember what the sharp tools have done to my exposed nerves.
I worry about Covid because I do not want to throw up. The constricting of my muscles, the tightness; it all sounds quite terrible to me. I vomit once every eight or so years (just like the Seinfeld episode). Even that is more often than I would like. Pain and agony I will do what I can to avoid.
Death though; death is not something that bothers me. I only have two goals I would like to achieve before I am done. I would like to have some writings published in book form and I would like to be married. The first goal is up to me. I need to watch less television and do more typing. That is my responsibility. The second goal is more nebulous. They claim that, “You Can’t Hurry Love”. So I will not hold my breath.
“What about all the things you still want to do?” “What about the places you could go?” “Don’t you wish you could have forever to do anything you want?”
When I get home each day, or when I have the day off, I ask myself one question. “Okay. You can do anything you want. What would you like to do?”
If I have true freedom, I go for a hike or a run. Physical activity, trees, fresh air; all of what I really need is right there. See some mountains, listen to frogs croaking; anything that helps me to embrace the outdoors. When I only have the afternoon free, my choices are simpler. I want to read or watch television and spend time with my cat.
I do not spend my days pining for the next time I can dress up and go out at night. I have been exposed to countless tourists and different cultures. I read and I run. I will go see a play, I will visit with friends, and I will make time for loved ones. But on an average day, there are only a few things I want. A cat, a couch, and a quality read.
I will never run out of movies I still want to see or books I am eager to read. If I lived forever, that list would never end. If I live ten more years, that list will never end. So I make do with the time I am given. No eternal spells or death-defying serums for me.
Then there is the promise of the afterlife. For all my beliefs, despite years of listening and reading, I cannot get myself to care about heaven. I try to be a good person because my conscience will not shut up. (My internal Jiminy Cricket refuses to clock off.)
I dislike cruelty and I like sleeping soundly. I am motivated to act kindly and gently because that is what God wants. If there is nothing after my body gives out I am fine with that. If there is some ethereal realm that I float off to, I suppose that is fine too. I really have no preference. I am putting my time in now. I cannot control after.
There are others that suffer much more than I do. JFK had back pain for a large part of his existence. I am sure he was anxious to be free of suffering. For those that have lost their loved ones to tragedy, they yearn to see their families again. I understand those feelings. However I do not have them. I will take what I am given and live it out to the end.
After work today, I am quite fine sitting in my living room and watching a movie. I revisited Elizabethtown last week. In that movie, a man finds himself with a life he did not want and contemplates suicide. Soon he is caught up in a trip that shows how beautiful life is and how mourning can have moments of humor. In regards to death, they offer up a quote. “If it wasn’t this, it’d be something else.”
Right now though, I am in bit more of a Meet Joe Black mentality. Yes, having the female character fall in love with the embodiment of death is… odd. However I take a lot from Anthony Hopkins. His character lives a full life. He gets to relish all the blessings and gifts that have been granted him. And in a sweeping moment of heart and awe, he tells his friends, “I don’t want anything more.”
I will keep wearing a face mask and washing my hands. No need to rush into this. Our time will come soon enough. And it will be sufficient.
We can relax. Somebody else will do the eulogizing. That is one fear we can cross out.