She said it so freely, as if it was a brilliant assertion and just so obvious.
“We act like we won’t die,” my friend Ellen said. “But we all will. So now I do things because I know I’m going to die one day so why not take chances now?”
And then we moved on to other conversations of journalism and fraud and friendship and time passing.
I remember when my grandmother died thinking and writing about how we work so hard to plan our entry into this world, with birth plans and preparation classes, to achieve the most peaceful and healthy birth. But when it comes to exiting this world, which, yes, we all will eventually do, we shy away, afraid of the unknown.
Let’s just say it: we don’t know what happens after we die. Where we go, whether we are aware, whether we come back. It is all a big black blank canvas.
And so we push it from our minds, convinced it will never really happen to us, or if it does, it will surely be a long time away from now. So we don’t need to think about it, or focus on it, or live as if it’s coming.
But it is coming.
So that fight we had last week? Why did we waste the time?
The zipline I was afraid to leap onto? Why didn’t I just try?
We skirt the border of safe and comfortable and familiar, living so far from the edge because we want to protect…what, exactly?
If we lived as if today were the only day, or perhaps the last day, we would live so differently. We might not immerse ourselves in the mania of get-work-done or clean-the-house or save-money. We might jump into the pool or leap off the clip into the cold, cold lake or join a rowing team because the river is there and our hearts are beating and we have the strength to pull those oars and bend our knees and go-go-go along the water’s surface.
We will die one day, my friend said, but none of us really know it.
Or at least, we don’t accept it or embrace it or live as if we know it’s coming.
For some of us, it is indeed a very long way off, but you never know when the day will come and the bus will crash into you and the lights will go out forever. And when that happens, should there be regrets?
Should people find your clothes neatly folded and all clean and your house in order because that was what you focused on?
Or do you want them to remember you as someone who took chances, someone who dared, someone who lived life so fully, taking all the opportunities in front of her because they were there for the taking.
I’ve been thinking very existential thoughts lately, like I’m not sure why we’re on this earth in the first place or what the point of it all really is.
But I cannot imagine that we’ve come here or been put here or been given this shot just to fritter it away with anxiety and complaining and hatred and worry. I may not know the greater Truth of Life, but I know that’s not it.
Last night I sat in a garden with familiar faces and laughed and smiled and talked with someone I didn’t remember was so funny and fun and lovely. In my head, I remembered her differently, not quite so friendly, and I felt badly for dishonoring who she is.
But then I had the chance to get closer to truth and I am grateful for it.
One day we will all die. What would it be like to live as if we knew that?