Facing My Own Mortality
This week we’ve buried a 16 year old that died unexpectedly due to a heart problem that the doctors determined was “under control”; we buried a 32 year old who lost her three year fight with brain cancer; and, we buried two 50 year olds, one of which died in a tragic car accident, the other dying of cancer. All around Christmas.
Weeks like this make me stay up late at night.
They make me think about my own mortality.
Make me ask questions like, “Who will die first … my wife or me?”
Selfishly, I’d love to die first. But, it’s a 50/50 chance and I could be the one who closes my wife’s eye lids as she passes.
Realizing that a dying person’s hearing is the last sense to go before death, I lay in bed and think about what I’d say to her in her dying moments … I think about what she’d need to hear from me:
“I love you and want you to go rest with Jesus.”
“You’re free to go to Jesus … just know that I love you … wait for me!”
“Everybody is here with you. We all love you and we give you the freedom to go to Jesus.”
And all this assumes that I’ll have the privilege to be there when she dies. What if she dies tragically, like some of these people I’m burying this week who died alone, suddenly, without the loving words of their family being whispered to them while they pass from this world to whatever comes next?
“Damn it”, I think to myself, “I’ve been lying awake for an hour thinking about something I have very little control over.”
But I try to control it. I buy cars with a high safety rating. I push my wife to go to the doctors over the smallest ailment. I remind her to wear her seat belt … I often palpitate her breasts looking for those nightmarish lumps … and I make sure she eats well and buy her anything that promotes her health. A juicer. P90X. A Xbox Kinect that we can exercise with.
At times I feel like a tyrant with a benevolent heart.
It’s weeks like this that I’m fearful of the unknown inevitability of the necessary part of life: death.
And this fear, this benevolent tyranny, the late nights of worrying, of thinking about the different possibilities, etc. are all the occupational hazards of this business.
It’s the death that surrounds me that inhibits my living. That makes me the grumpy tyrant. The sleepless tyrant.
But … it’s also the death that surrounds me that encourages my living.
It encourages me to say “I love you” as often as I can.
It encourages me to forgive and extend grace to those I don’t think deserve it.
It encourages me to pursue my passions … to find what I love doing … and do it with all my heart … knowing that I’ll be the best person I can be when I’m doing what I love.
It encourages me to smile. To make friends. To dance even though I’m bad at dancing.
It encourages me to work less, live with less money so that I can pour more of the most precious asset called “time” into my friends and family.
Facing the mortality of my own life and of those I love is a dark reality.
But it’s a dark reality that I’m learning to lighten with every second I choose to live life to the fullest, so that when that time comes — whenever it may be — I’ll look it in the face with no regrets.