Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spoiler Alert: We’re All Going To Die Someday

Deb: Do you ever sit and think about your death? I don’t mean how or when, but the fact of it––the fact that you and I are going to die. And we don’t know when.

Woody Allan certainly does. It is his lifelong obsession and I am quite sure he sees the irony in that. It is what makes him all at once a brilliant comedian and a full-time psychiatrist patient.

One of my dearest friends has fought this concept in her mind all her life. If she even thinks of it for a second, she is gripped with fear and pain and disbelief. My mother, who is one of the most insecure people I know, said to me one day, “I just can’t imagine the world without me”. It was said in a most honest way, not with ego or self-importance. She just could not imagine it. I loved her for this statement. I guess we all feel this way deep down.  We just cannot imagine the world turning without us.

But do you think about it? Really think about it?

The other night during that glorious and cozy full moon, I sat in our window seat marveling. I am a moon-gazer and have been known to sit for hours at a time enthralled.  And because the moon was so close to earth, it felt like Moon had just dropped in for tea.

As I was keeping company with Moon, I started to think about the friends we have lost in the last few months and how much I was missing them here with us on the planet.

Then I started to ponder the idea of my own death. Not my death exactly, not the hows and whys and wheres and whens of it. But the fact of it.

I stared at that moon and thought, “There will come a time when I cannot stare at the moon, because I won’t be here. I won’t be on this earth. I might be in some other place or I might be nowhere, but I certainly won’t be here, as me, as Deb. I didn’t feel gripped with fear or with pain. But I felt ripped off. And a little jealous of the moon, I don’t mind telling you. Even if it was just for this single moment, I could use infinity lifetimes.

And I know people say that is why we have to live each moment to the fullest. But what if we do try to live each moment to the fullest? What if we do adore and appreciate and revel in each and every second? Shouldn’t there be a points card system? Fill your card with joy and get another life? And I know, I know. If we did, we would not appreciate the life we have. But still. What a rip.

So I said “Goodnight Moon” and went to bed deciding that from now on, I would make every single solitary minute second count. And the next day, before I knew it, I was watching “Cake Boss”. Life.

Everybody has got to die, but I always believed an exception would be made in my case. ~ William Saroyan

Barbara: Oh, Deb, such beautiful agony! I actually haven’t thought about my own death much. Weird, huh? I mean, I really really avoid any and all thoughts in that direction. But if I must ponder it, then yeah, I guess I get your mom’s innocent wonder at the incomprehensible possibility of a world without me. One where stuff keeps happening and it no longer affects me (or me it). Just mind-boggling. But I guess if I go down that slippery slope then it’s equally disconcerting that a whole bunch of stuff happened before I made my illustrious debut.

It’s true, there is nothing quite so magical as those rare moments (like pondering a perigee moon) where you feel just transcendently, spectacularly alive. And yet, if only I knew how to convince whoever’s in charge that I’m sure I could summon that appreciation if allowed to live for all eternity.


  1. OK,so this is just a little kind of creepy for me because well I have had a creepy experence with a family members death and it just about scared me half to death.

    We lost my great grandfather on Feb 9,2002,when we lost him we were all very heart broken but we knew he was happy,he was never afraid of dying. Now on Feb 9, 2009 we lost my Great Grandmother. They died on the same day,(different years of corse) at the same time,in the same hospital room. No kidding. It scared me and my family half to death when the nurse at the hospital told us what time my grand mother died because when we all heard the time we all knew that was the time that my grandfather had passed as well. It wasn't till a couple min later that we realized it was the same day and hospital room he had died in as well.

    My grandmother as well was never afraid of death she always told me that she knew it was coming so why not embrace it. That and she always told me "Live eace moment like it's you last,don't wait till it's too late and have a head full of wishes".

  2. Lyndsie it is odd when these things happen. I think we always look for some meaning in them don't we? I love your Grandmothers "head full of wishes"

  3. When I looked at the moon I wondered if I would be alive in 18 years when it is this big again. I sometimes think about it but mostly just know it will happen when least expected and I will be remembered. I lost my best friend in 1998 and I remember her everyday. So I know my kids and grandkids will do the same with me and it gives me peace to just live everyday as it were my last.

  4. I first realized the universality of the sense of disbelief that we won't always be around while reading The Death of Ivan Ilych, where Ilych is diagnosed with a terminal illness and can't imagine his world without him in it. Or that this is happening to him! To others, sure, but to Ivan Ilych, it just can't be!
    The emotional reality of death doesn't hit us till middle age, most of the time. Before that we only grasp it intellectually and can't understand why people make such a big deal of it, why there is such fear (Generalizing, of course, about the age this happens to us; there must be plenty of cases where younger people face this reality and older people don't)-- while in our twenties, for example, we think death is likely far off and we'll deal with it later -- then in our forties and fifties we start coming face to face with it. And it's a shock. And we "get" that we aren't going to escape this end.
    At least, that's my experience. Then again, I sat with my mom's body for hours after she died, and I still can hardly believe this actually happened to her. My brain has a heck of a time grasping this reality, in spite of my strong suspicion that there is a life beyond the physical and it's even better than this one. And that the day is coming for me ... wow. There is a part of me that holds that off.
    I wonder if it becomes easier to embrace death when we are sick or extremely depressed, so that death becomes somehow more appealing. Or if after losing many loved ones, say when we're "old," death seems less shocking to us. It does seem as if the elderly take the whole idea in stride, with a shrug.
    Also true, as Barb said, that it's no problem accepting that the world got along fine without me for centuries, but how ever can it continue on after I'm no longer here?

  5. As for living each day as if it could be my last ... right now I'm feeling the weight of all my possessions that my family would be left to deal with if I were to die tomorrow. I've been "paring down" over the years but there is still a lot of it; I need to pare down far more.

  6. I know Madge, when we were at our Second City 50th anniversary last year in Chicago, I remember thinking "wow the 100th will be cool", and then thinking "oh,oh". Kate I was thinking about that old saying "I was so sick I wanted to die". We say that when we have a really bad flu or the like. But I think it reeks of truth. I think when we become really ill, like terminally ill, something kicks in. I think we are done and we make our peace with it. My parents are turning 84 tomorrow and two weeks from now respectively and they have lost 99% of their friends. And yet, they love life and want to live forever. Interesting huh? I was heartbroken when you said that you sat by your Mom's body after she had died. I have done that with my Granny and I know what you mean. It did not seem real. And yes, you said that you think about your friend every single day and I guess that is the way we live on. I would prefer to just live on, but I'll take being remembering if that's all I have.

  7. I do envy the religious. They have an afterlife plan in place. And afterlife insurance, in case that transition in limbo doesn't go too smoothly.

  8. When I think of death its never been my own I've pondered it has always been my brother who comes to mind. I literally can't think of death without thinking of him.

    He has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and I overheard the statistic of a 15-18 year life span so many times from such a young age that thinking of his death has been inescapable. Every time I see him the thought does occur to me it may be the last. He will be 33 in April.

    I can't comprhend it, his body failed him long ago and yet he is still here. It makes me realize the indomitable force that comes from a will to live.

    He once told me that he knows he'll die someday probably sooner than later but he is too busy living to worry about it. Maybe if he had spent more time pondering his own death he wouldn't be here today. So I'm not gonna risk worrying about mine.

  9. MJ you always kill me! Yes and a back up plan! Erin, of course your focus is your brother. And people are always underestimating that amazing will to live. Too busy living to think about it. A lesson to all of us. Thanks for sharing this Erin.

  10. Oh my goodness, you guys with your amazing spirits and stories. Just killin' me. Love you all. And MJ, thanks for the laughs. Missed you!

  11. The moon was amazing over the Atlantic Ocean sky this past weekend. I would say I am at peace with myself if I were to die today. I will go to the ocean and I imagine ride the waves each day. I do not dwell on death. I know we all will die and I believe no matter what you think you are controlling that that day is chosen the day you are born. But I just want to die. Like people did when I was a kid. They died at various ages but they died. No one spoke of cancer or all these other horrible diseases. As a kid I knew none of my Grandparents friends taking bottles of meds like people do today. Thankfully at 57 I have yet to fill a prescription of any kind.
    I have been with way too many friends who have died from illness. I do not want to go that way. I just want to die when it is my turn and I think I will know.

  12. Both of my parents, as well as both of my husband's parents died in my arms. My father was the first, and his death was the only one that was totally unexpected. I screamed, cried, pounded on his chest, as I thought I could breathe life back into him. But he was the only one who never wanted to talk about dying. But subconsciously I think he knew. Because there was nothing left unsaid - no "if only" or "I should have done this or said that," there was peace in me, although great sadness. In my life as a nurse, alongside many who have died, I have realized that no matter what someone's beliefs are, it is far better to make the reality of eventual death a part of my life. Most of the time we can't choose when that day will come, or how we will go. So I want to make it a part of my life - so I will always live in gratitude, share what is in my heart, and not regret anything when that day of my death comes a knocking at my door.
    I love the moon, whether it makes me think about death, or making wild and passionate love with my romantic husband. We are all going to die someday. For myself, it's about how I choose to live while I'm here.
    I loved this blog, and love to you for your great posts.

  13. Its the great irony isnt it.....That we are born to die. And yet we forge ahead and build lives and move about as though we will never taste what other mere mortals will be forced to..death. I don't think much about it. Im with Katherine on the meds thing...I would rather give up coffee then take a sleeping pill...not eat meat products than have to lower my cholesterol with a medication. ..Ive always felt meds were a stack of tumbling cards. But thats just me. period.
    I love the visual of the moon stopping by for tea...maybe in a way it is..just dropping in a little closer to say Hello and make us wonder and wax away about life.
    Beautiful Blog always!! : )

  14. Kathleen I thought it was such a brave thing to say that you would be at peace if you died today. I know what you mean. I do not want to die today or anytime I soon but I too would be at peace. I have lived and loved and learned and tried my best. Cheryl I can't imagine the pain you endured, especially with your father who's death was unexpected. I'm sorry for that pain. But you are right. No regrets. That's the key isn't it? Melody I know what you mean about the meds. I look at the meds my Mom and Dad are on and I think "how did it come to this?" And I won't lie to you, I am sitting here right now at 2:30 in the morning with a pounding stinging migraine. I just took 2 advil x-didn't help, and 2 tylenol x-still didn't help. The moon didn't drop by tonight so I have to go it alone. Nice to have you guys here to chat with though.

  15. It's funny how different peoples minds go on this. I remember having a debate with a friend when we were... say 11... and talking about 'what if there is no heaven' and her response was about how awful it would be t die if there wasn't and my response... as a KID was... 'well you woulnd't know. It would just stop'.

    I have fears of my demise in the here and now--my family would cease to function, as my husband just can't support us financially and my kids are 12 and 15, so college is coming. But I imagine once I'm an empty nester, I will be back to philosophical me on the matter. I hope by then I will have some books out there, so people will run across something of my making from time to time and wonder about me, but it won't matter to me THEN, because there will be no awareness anymore of my MEness. (even though I do have some hazy conception of my life energy continuing on in some other way)

  16. Hart it's so funny you should mention the 11 year old convo. I remember being around that age too, maybe a tad older and thinking well, I LOVE to sleep so yeah it could be worse. A good LONG sleep. But I know what you mean when your family is younger and depend on you. The possibility of your own death has a different set of concerns attached.

  17. Loss has been a pretty big part of my life although I'm only 21 (about to be 22 on April 1!). My mother passed away when I was 8 and I also lost 2 great-grandparents and a grandfather at a young age. Because of this I do think about death alot, but not in a morbid way. I'm actually taking a college class right now entitled "Death and Dying" which talks about different cultural/religious perceptions of death. A big focus is on how to help and counsel people who have suffered loss.

    Although losing someone sucks, it always helps to have someone you can lean on. One of my career goals is to become a crisis counselor and to be able to help people in times of loss or tragedy. I guess it's my way of making some good come from something so bad?

    Almost lost my Dad a while ago, and had a scare with him again these past few weeks. Always makes me think of my mortality and if I would be missed when I was gone. My goal now is simply to leave the world a better place than I found it and to have as much fun doing so as I can.

    Like the old addage, "Every man dies, not every man really lives," I'd rather live a short full life, than a long empty one.

    Great post!

  18. Ruth, you would make an exceptional counselor of any kind. I'm so sorry you're dad hasn't been well. And glad you're living life to its fullest. There's so much wonder to experience. xo

  19. Ruth I love "every man dies, not every man really lives" and you're right. It's all about touching other souls on this planet. I will keep a good thought for your Dad.

  20. time is feeling like such a huge mindfuck for me lately. I think about my death - my absence from the world -- and worse, lately, I look at shrivelled old white haired people and I think, if I am lucky, that will be me. Old. Cane. Wheel Chair. Bed. Old. Mindfuck. I can't take it, I tell you. *sigh* <3

  21. hmmm. remind me not to read angsty blog posts before bed. Im a little better today. *slinks away to find good humor*

  22. Oh Gae I am so sorry. Next time it is the stuff of nightmares, I'll put a best before time on it!

  23. lol! I like that anyway deb. Blog posts with Best Time to Read stamps on them. :)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.