Death is funny in the sense that no one gets to escape it. Some may dodge it, battle it for far too long, or possibly even look forward to it, but ultimately we are all taken by it in the end.
I know a lot of people who fear death—spiritual souls and nonbelievers alike. Despite what you solemnly swear you believe, there is always the question of what the afterlife will look like. This picture may be painted by fear, hope, anxiety, or fantasy. I’ve seen the dying with my own eyes, therefore death is painted with peace in my mind.
We’ve all heard the old child’s prayer:
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I die before I wake,
I pray for Lord my soul to take.”
Although this has surely kept many children wide-eyed in fear that they will die in their sleep, it brings adults a bit of peace and comfort. So, how much peace and comfort do we feel when we think about the inevitable?
I won’t lie, sometimes I get very anxious when I think about death. Not so much about my afterlife, I’m quite peaceful about that (most of the time), but I get anxious about the how and the who. Will it happen in an instant? Will I get sick and die long before I actually get to leave the earth? Will it be a fluke? Will I fall 30,000 feet from the sky or get trapped under water? And when I do go, will I be too young? Will it bring my family tragedy or peace? Will I leave behind loving memories or will my darkest moments linger on?
These are the thoughts that make my chest feel tight (for those of you who haven’t experienced true anxiety, a tight chest is usually where it begins for me).
While I know I have a great deal to live for and look forward to, I know that anything is possible and we are not promised tomorrow. If my story should end sooner rather than later, I would want my loved ones to know this:
I am truly grateful for the life I have lived thus far. I have experienced more in my twenty-four years than many people get to in a lifetime, never questioning whether or not I am loved or cherished—that in and of itself is life’s greatest blessing. I have felt the highest of highs and the gut-wrenching effects of trauma and loss. I have lived as fully and steadfast as I could have in this lifetime, and I have no regrets about the way I have spent my time. Not everyone can say that they have really lived their lives, but rest assured I have lived as if I were dying for quite some time. I have chosen to live this way because I know tomorrow may never come, and if it doesn’t, I will be fully satisfied and thankful for today.
I am thankful for the immense amount of love and joy my family and loved ones have brought me. I am overjoyed when I think back on hiking through Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Canada, Australia, and of course, all over the U.S. I have been blessed with far more than one person could ever deserve, and I have worked to earn as much as I could for myself.
While I’m proud of many decisions I’ve made, I’m no princess. I have hit my personal rock bottom and made the damned mistakes, and I know what it feels like to genuinely feel sorry for what I have done. These moments could have been far worse, but they were my personal worst, and I am also thankful for experiencing those moments because they helped me see that though I can be deeply flawed, I know I am good. Choosing to be “good” is far more rewarding and peaceful than not. (If you’re wondering what is good or bad, bad is the stuff your gut tells you to stay the hell away from, but sometimes you decide to play with that fire at any rate. At least when you burn yourself you no longer wander what it feels like.) I only mention this because, as always, I’m not trying to give an edited version of my life. I’ve seen many shades of grey on the spectrum between black and white, but they have all played their part in a very full, humbling life.
So, should I die before I wake, I hope my people are left with peace and joy and laughs and happy tears. Remember my tight squeezy hugs and my obnoxious explosive laugh. Reminisce on my weird and full little life. Let my little lovies (all the kiddos in my life) know how much I loved them, even if I didn’t get to spend enough time with them. Be sure my fiancé knows that he has been my greatest adventure, and that my parents know that I have never once wished for anyone or anything else in this life and that I have them to thank for it. Look through my photos from around the world, and read the words I have trickled all over the place (even those in my hand-written journals, which I only give anyone permission to read after I’m dead).
The Humble Lion