Life and Death and the Space In-Between
I think about death a lot. I always have, especially after my Mom died. Maybe it’s because it became a reality then and I couldn’t escape it. The loss weighed on me like a thick, smothering blanket and even with time, I can still feel its sting. I have walked with death – or the fear of death - for as long as I can remember. It’s strange, because I don’t want to die, nor do I feel like it’s something I can control or should obsess about. But, the thought is always there in the back of my mind, waiting. It has plagued my dreams and most of my waking thoughts. “What if today, I lose someone I love?” or “Why isn’t my son answering the phone? Maybe he’s just busy. Or maybe he’s dead.” (Insert anxiety reaching up to choke me, causing me to compulsively call that son twelve times in a row.) I have found that I can go from zero to dead in about 2.7 seconds. Sometimes, I take the long way around to that thought process – it might actually take me a whole five minutes – but eventually, all roads lead back to death. It’s exhausting and completely futile because I am not the One who decides any of this; only God knows who, when, where, how and why. It isn’t my place to know and worrying about it doesn’t do me any good. And yet… I have spent countless hours wrestling with something I have no control over, yet still twists me into knots tighter than a pretzel. When other people suffer loss, I feel it deeply, because I know what it’s like. At least it moves me to pray, which is the only thing you can do in those moments. I have sought therapy and gained some powerful insights as to why this is and how I can manage it, but I’ve never been able to slay the dragon. I’ve decided it’s just something I’m going to have to live with, like my irrational fear of spiders or my aversion to heights. I talk to God about it a lot and His Presence gives me comfort, but I really wish this wasn’t a thing for me. I wish I could lay this fear down and walk away from it forever. It hasn’t happened yet, but I dwell in hope. If there is any good that comes from this, it is that I try very hard to say everything I need to say, while it can be said. I have kept journals for my children since they were born; they are my love letters to them, my voice long after I am gone. I try to let my friends and family know how much I appreciate their loyalty and grace toward me, even when I am my most squirrely self. My man knows I love him more and that he is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I have a deep love for people in general and try to live in such a way that testifies to that. That does not mean I do it perfectly and I lay awake at night, asking myself if I am being authentic in this. Am I showing love enough? Do I treat others with respect and caring? Have I apologized when I haven’t? Am I kind to strangers? Am I gracious to those who have hurt me? Am I living my life in such a way that others can see the love of God in me? I am very aware that when I stand before the Creator, I will be held accountable, not for the things I attained, but the way in which I treated others. I do not take that lightly. Love is the only thing we leave behind and the only thing we take with us when we go. I intend to have an abundance of both when I leave this world. When I was a young woman, I prayed that God would release me from my fear of death. Soon after, I had a dream that I was dying and floated out of my body and away from my family. I was filled with an indescribable love and joy. I inherently knew my loved ones would be okay and that I was going home. I wish there were words to convey what I felt in my heart, but there isn’t an adjective that adequately describes it. It was just perfect peace. When I woke up, I tried to hang onto that feeling for days, but eventually, life got in the way. That memory has sustained me during the harder moments of my life and it’s the thought I return to most when anxiety gets the better of me. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that death isn’t the end of anything, just the beginning of something else. I know that when my time comes, I will not be alone and all will be well. So, I walk with death while enjoying the richness of life, dwelling in a place of gratitude and a plan much bigger than my own. After all, from our birth to our death is the space in between, the things we do that make this life count. I hope to dwell joyfully in that space, no matter how much time I have here. Maybe my constant awareness of death has helped me to see the beauty in life; for that, at least, I am grateful.