in the middle of mourning, news came that a family member has stage four cancer. and that it had spread, far and wide.
and everything just stopped. work, laughter, joy, mourning. grey overcast rolled over life and i couldn’t move.
i lost a dear friend to breast cancer. a different family member was throwing up blood, but guilt and shame over an addiction made him assume the blood was caused by the addiction. it was cancer. another family member died a long slow painful death from a cancer nobody had ever heard of.
and now here we are again.
not only is there the pain of a loved one being ill, but there’s that Death guy again, staring at me straight in my face. challenging me. he’s not going away. in fact, he just keeps getting closer and closer. i can’t avoid him, i can’t pretend he doesn’t exist. not anymore.
what is my relationship with death? what am i going to do about the fact that i’m going to die at some point?
i’ve written and contemplated a lot about death. as a kid, i was terrified of ‘not being’ anymore, and so the dying part terrified me. the moment when you switch from being alive to being dead. but now i am older and i’ve experienced death of loved ones and meditated with death and written stories about it…and i’m less afraid of not existing. and utterly terrified of not ‘being alive’ before i no longer exist.
a person i follow on twitter asked the question, what do you hope to be doing in 5 years? it’s a great question, one that i have long struggled to answer. but it’s also a question that she asked right around the time we were finding out about this family member. and so the question was not one that lead to joyful answers or determination. it lead to the worst case of nihilism i think i’ve ever had. and boy, let me tell you, i can do nihilism hard core.
what is the point of being alive? what’s the point of any of this? why are we here? what intention did god or the universe or whatever created this planet and humans have for any of us?
these are not new questions, these are questions that have hounded and terrorized most of humanity for the entirety of its existence. but as i sit here, a middle aged person that is about the same age as so many of the others i’ve known who have died, i wonder why am i here and not them. why do kids in war torn regions get killed and not me? what decided which hundreds of thousands of people would be killed when the atomic bombs were dropped and which wouldn’t?
is there a god or a universal law that decides these things? and if so, what is the criteria? what was the deciding factor that let the mother be killed but not the baby that is left suckling at her breast?
the randomness, the lack of rules. there is no way to assure ourselves that we will die in our sleep at a very old age. it is discombobulating. but it is terrifying to think that the lives of the people who are killed by wars, who die from cancer, who are hit by cars (as my dear friend was), who’ve ‘reached their time’–have no meaning. that it doesn’t matter what they did or accomplished in their five year time line or what they checked off their bucket list or what they did that morning or what they wanted to do that evening…it is terrifying to think that there is no meaning to the lives they lived. that there is no meaning to my life.
that we’re all here on earth just waiting for the moment until we die.
i’ve always thought that i was put on this earth to be the greatest and best me that god intended me to be. but i don’t know anymore. i could’ve been at the bar in florida that was shot up. I could’ve been the driver on I-94 that was smeared across the pavement. i could’ve been the one who was told the cancer was back and it spread. everywhere.
that i’m not the one who died yesterday doesn’t give meaning to my life today. or does it? should it?what is the point of doing this, of doing life?
what happens if i die, and i’ve never done all that i wanted to do? or i’ve never dreamed as greatly as god intended me to dream?
i am blanketed by grey immobilizing hopelessness, while a blistering fire of desperation burns in my guts. there is no hope. but there’s so little time. i must get a bucket list, i must get that job i always wanted, i must win the lottery, i must i must i must i must…
i will eventually be the one that death doesn’t walk away from. what do i do until then?
i don’t move. i haven’t moved. i snarl and hiss at my partner and wearily cart children to school and dutifully wait for them seven hours later. rote life. rote living. terrorized by death.
what am i going to do? what is any of us going to do?