Who Lives Forever, Anyways?in my death and dying class, we talk about things like coping, anxiety, grief, putting up a good fight.
cancer cases sometimes miraculously become channel 4 news because a forty year old woman decided she wasn't about to give up. we go through five stages (apparently). we envision those we love going before us. we place ourselves on timelines and mark them with a big, fat x. if we're lucky, that x isn't too far to the right (right, as my professor says bluntly, is "kaputz").
i'm not sure that i believe in life after death. or even half-life as a reincarnated animal. i sure as hell run from the topic of forever after death. what a bunch of bologna. me? lasting forever? how odd. better yet, how horrifying. in the later years of his life, freddie mercury wrote the song "who wants to live forever?". that's a great question because seriously - who does? not me. or at least, i don't think so. forever is so the opposite of eighty years or so.
all of my grandparents died at the age of seventy-seven. hopefully my parents last longer than that. i won't be having kids for a while, so it seems fitting that they live longer in order to participate longer. i believe in grandparents. they change everything in their ancient generational ways. it's like magic, really. with grandparents, everything is better - more meaningful. for example, butter on toast. i used to watch my grandma jolly butter toast and tears almost came to my eyes knowing that another pair of hands could never make a knife bring butter to bread in that spready, crisp, full-coverage, all-loving way.
grandparents are moments. they are memories like lotion or perfume. or dingy old hats. they have saggy wrinkly elbows or hair in their ears. but even those things feel necessary. those things mark the seventy-something years of use a body must undergo. i might relish those things, even though i fear being elderly more than i fear death. death happens and then it's over. being old waits for you then as you get closer haunts you. it buys you black baloons when you turn forty, convinces you that your uterus is throwing in the towel at fifty, and at sixty, it might even stowe your libido away in some box in the basement.
i don't want to be old. i want to be young and unaware of how much i have lived and how much i have missed. i want to be reborn as a twenty-one year old every day with fresh, new skin and a warm mommy to hold me when the goin gets rough. i want to know that my outlook will be as unfearing as that of those who have reached the finish line before me. i don't remember my grandparents being afraid of death. i don't remember them whining about what they did and didn't do. i only saw the product of their workings - children, homes full of knick knacks, photo albums of reunions and road trips to the world's biggest ball of string back in 1968.
tonight, i went out with friends and did the usual. i drank pabst blue ribbon by the pitcher, raised my mug to the mighty tune of a righteous cover band, and most importantly, i hugged and danced with those around me like my little feet were going to turn into pumpkins at midnight and it'd be all over. because someday, it will be all over. i'll be kaputz. my friends may or may not be. they may not even know who i am. or that i ever was.
but tomorrow morning, when we wake up with our feet in a bind and our ashtray hair tangled and dirty, we'll know we do things right. we aren't climbing mountains or running marathons, as those who look back at life wish they had. we're not birthing beautiful babies or even letting men marry us. we're so alive right now. we can't even help it. we can't even feel it. because nothing is to be said about death on nights like tonight. we don't need death to know that we're making it count. because death doesn't make life worth living. rather, life makes death worth forgetting. it's coming no matter what we do. why not just kick ass at being alive while it counts? why wait for a doctor to count your months to reflect and repair?
i don't need to be a forty year old woman banning cancer from her body through good vibes to know that i can conquer mortality. because every day i wake up and see a world worth experiencing down to the very last drop. i cry when snow touches the street lamp outside my window just right. i scream to win fights that cannot be won. i write for hours then crumple up the paper to ovecome myself. i count down the hours until nap time. i take detours on the way to class so i can walk by my favorite tree. i feel good about the way life goes. yesterday was longer than today and tomorrow will be faster than i can handle. i know that what's behind me fits into a small second of memory and that when i get to tomorrow, we'll all be older, closer, and begging for another hour. but that's okay. i'm in no rush.
what's the point in writing a list of things to do before death? death could be tomorrow. life happens, and even if i don't seek particular brands of adventure and accomplishment, whatever falls into my lap will be worth it. because the more you look to that list and think of all the things you need to cross off it, the more you adhere to the power of death. your destruction awaits. i don't want to live for death. i find that i am mostly running from it in the direction of small things that don't change the world, myself, or those around me. i want to participate in breath-like moments that mean so much but come naturally enough to keep me feeling at ease about things. i can't let the big things take over. it's my way of avoiding death. i avoid being ready. i guess that's what i saw in my grandparents. whole human beings with kids, houses, and careers past. people who'd been through the motions of what it means to accomplish a life's worth of deeds.
i am not ready for a life's worth. i'm ready for today's worth. i don't want to live forever, but i don't want to admit that the world will be removed from my body. somewhere in this limbo, i manage to drink myself into a strange tunnel of reflection after a night gone by like minutes. and my fears of death feel ridiculous for once because as i look down the uncertain lane, i see nothing. i don't see marriage. i don't see kids. i don't even see senior citizenship. i used to have aspirations, but each day i feel more bound to the inevitability of happiness. i'm happy right now. and as long as i let myself be filled with each moment's pleasure, i will have all that the world can give and meet death one day without fear.
i don't want to stop and recognize that i am old or that i can never take back the seventy-five years behind me. i don't wont to wait to be taken from this world. i dont want to anticipate forever or the entire universe. because i am the world. my body is all that i really have and my world is all that i've ever known. so i am not giving it away or letting it collect dust on some shelf in the basement. i'm just going to be glad i have it. in general. or specifically, in the moments when i notice those small grains of everything in the people that make me forget that i might never exist.
as freddie said, forever is our today. and even though i can't take it back to relive it, it lives inside of me and i can sleep feeling full from a delicious day with a side of beautiful people.
in fact, i don't even remember why tonight made me think of death. or its various preparatory stages and coping strategies. all i know now is that i feel so good about life. and that i can live it. no matter when it ends.
¶ 3:00 AM