I’ve been thinking a lot lately about dying.
I was introduced to death when I was 10 years old. My great aunt was 93. When I left school one day my mother told me that she had died. I cried so hard. I barely even knew her, but the idea that someone was permanently gone from my life was so difficult to imagine at that age.
I remember her funeral. I remember burying her and going to this big restaurant to eat and really just wanting to go home and be sad in my room.
When my grandmother died I was at work. I was just out of high school. I got a call on the restaurant’s phone and went back to answer it. After that I don’t remember much. I remember sliding down the wall like in a movie. Crying in front of the whole kitchen. I remember sitting at her funeral next to my grandfather who was crying openly and telling me he didn’t know what he was going to do without her.
He died shortly thereafter. He waited for me to come and say goodbye. I sang to him in the apartment beneath my aunt’s house that he had shared with my grandmother. Then he died.
When enough people in your life slip away from you, you start to think that it doesn’t even really matter anymore. One more death. You’d think it would numb you. But it doesn’t.
When my father’s best friend died I was in Germany with my mother. He’d had cancer for a while. I had to comfort my mother, so I didn’t grieve for him the way I had done for the people before. Years later, I find myself missing him with this sharp ache that hasn’t really started to ease yet.
When enough people in your life die you start to be afraid of phones when people are sick. Which, when I was younger, wasn’t as difficult as it is now. Now, whenever my grandmother’s number appears on my phone, I worry that someone has found her in her apartment. But instead of my phone being in my house all the time, it’s in my purse. This weird specter that looms over my everyday life with the threat of bad news when things get dire for someone I care about.
I don’t know why death has been in my head so much lately. Maybe it’s because things have been so good that I’m expecting the other shoe to drop. Maybe I’m dreading the thrice-fold tumbling of people I know into some abyss. Maybe I’m just anxious and this is how the anxiety is manifesting.
I worry about my family. I worry about my dog.
I have to remind myself to breathe. To let the worry go. To remind myself that death is a symptom of life and to live my life with fervency and relish. To fight the fear. Death is inevitable, after all. And living my life in fear of it is not going to do me any good.