Morbidity & Mortality

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.

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13 thoughts on “Morbidity & Mortality

  1. I worry about death all the time. It’s DEFINITELY one of the ways my anxiety frequently manifests itself. I haven’t had a death in the family or friends circle in, like, seven years or so. I feel all the time like it’s coming due, and I don’t know who’s going to have to pay. You aren’t alone in this.

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    • It really does feel that way. Like time keeps rolling on and I owe the universe some kind of debt for being death-free for so many years.

      Thank you for this. It makes me feel so strange to think that I’m the only one.

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      • Anxiety makes you feel crazy and alone. Well, it makes me feel crazy, and therefore alone. I know other people aren’t thinking the same things and perceiving reality differently. But, death is universal. Maybe people don’t think about it as much as we do or as deeply, but it’s universally felt, I think, to be dreading it happening to the people we love. Also, taxes.

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      • It does the same for me. But we’re not alone. We have other anxious people to commiserate with.

        Death is universal. I think it might be healthier to think about it than to avoid it totally. The key is finding the balance so I don’t obsess over it, I guess.

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  2. Coming to grips with death. Ah. I still think of my grandmothers, with both of whom I was close, and marvel that they are gone and that I can’t call them up to ask questions about caring for orchids or knitting or when they knew they were in love.
    I go through phases of unsettling anxiety about it, too.

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    • It’s so strange to think that we can never talk to them again. That’s the part that’s hardest to grapple with, for me. Thank you for commiserating.

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  3. You’re right. You’d think that when you begin to lose more people to death it gets easier, but it doesn’t. As a nurse, I face death all the time, and when my patients die its always hard. In the beginning I too was under the illusion that you become numb to it, but it doesnt happen that way. Every life is precious.

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    • It really doesn’t. And you’re right. Each life is precious. It’s good that you can still see thay, even having faced death so many times. Thank you for continuing to see the value in the lives you work with every day.

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