Multiple back-to-back episodes of Grey’s Anatomy + Ethics of Life and Death course= perfect recipe for thinking nonstop about my mortality. Is this good or bad? Or both?
I’ve never been so aware of the pain in the human experience and of the end of life. It’s everywhere and I can’t escape the evidence of it right now. This is so pleasant, right? Okay, no. It’s morbid.
This last spring and summer pushed a button in me – a button that’s always been there – something I’ve been afraid of most my life and have tried to avoid and have tried to live more comfortably in denial. But one night in London, around 3am, I sat up in bed and started crying, and couldn’t stop. No one had died. No one was even sick. It was merely the thought of the loss that triggered the emotion. Flashes of my grandparents, my sisters, of Nate over the summer, my mom and my dad. People who are very much a significant, loving part of my life. And I couldn’t stand it. It all felt so confusing and cruel.
Pain and death. And not just my own experience, but the stories I hear from people all. the. time. Every one of us have lives that are marked by this somehow. But this middle-of-the-night-crying thing… I realized I had (another) issue making its way to the surface.
As I’m attempting to make peace with said issue and fears as of late, I’ve spent a lot of time in my own head thinking, pushing my own buttons. A few unresolved thoughts are swirling around, and I suspect there will be many more in the future.
When people in our lives – people we love – become sick or when they die we become acutely aware of our own mortality. And as swiftly as this reality hits me, so does the uncomfortable panic that I’m not yet my full self- the self I want to be.
The moments after we were told Nate probably wouldn’t live through his tumor, we sat alone in his hospital room in shock. I was hyperventilating of course, but Nate… with deep emotion, began asking questions about who he was. Not feeling scared about the idea of death, but rather taking an assessment of his life, considering all that he had not yet done or been – who he would no longer become in the process of living and growing in strength and wisdom and love. And I began to do the same.
There’s an acceptance of the human experience I want to refuse…the fragility. It makes me want to insulate, to protect myself from ever feeling the sadness and confusion of people’s pain and death (especially that of my loved ones). But here in lies the strange beauty of it all. Deeply-felt loss means we love. And love…makes us vulnerable, but makes us better. When we love, we grow and we hurt and we live more fully, and we feel gratitude. I’m so afraid to lose, but I can’t not live in the depths of really loving. At some point I will have to find acceptance in the reality that being human is to be fragile. We will all hurt (if we’re not already). But its reality… is hard.
And this is where I’ll end for now. Unresolved. With the exception of a few wise words from Coach Taylor (friday night lights: S1, E1):
Give us all gathered here tonight the strength to remember that life is so very fragile. We are all vulnerable, and we will all, at some point in our lives…fall. We will all fall. We must carry this in our hearts-that what we have is special. That it can be taken from us, and when it is taken from us, we will be tested. We will be tested to our very souls. We will now all be tested. It is these times, it is this pain that allows us to look inside ourselves.…Top photo taken by Adam Sjoberg…