I didn’t write much last week because it was a very hard one. I have been battling some anxiety anyway, and last week I found out a friend from college died unexpectedly.
It feels strange all over again to put it in writing the same way it has felt strange and awful to say it out loud over the past week. The sorrow is immense and even more so for his wife and family and those friends who are like family. I found myself having those moments of feeling paralyzed, those moments you can only have when you are truly faced with your own fragile mortality and how little is in your control. And I had all those stupidly cliche thoughts about how you should “live like you’ll die tomorrow” because you’ll never know what tomorrow holds. And you know what I discovered? That philosophy kind of sucks.
If I knew I was going to die tomorrow, I’d spend even more time dealing with anxiety today than I already do. I am pretty sure I would be trying to do ALL THE THINGS in an effort to make sure I took care of those I love and I don’t think I’d do much of it well as I’m sure I’d spend most of my time crying and holding my babies. And while that is a lovely thing to do, it is untenable. If I knew I was going to die tomorrow there is no way I’d be spending my time doing dishes or vacuuming. And I would probably not be writing a blog post unless it was to tell people how much I love them (And for the record, friends, I love you very very much. So there, that’s taken care of in any event.) But if I was even off by a few days, my living situation (and by extension my family’s) would quickly become gross and probably prime for a bug invasion. And if I were to literally spend all my time hugging my husband and children and other friends and family, it would go from really sweet to really codependent pretty dang quickly. Not to mention keeping us from earning a living.
But in this past week, it has been hard not to fight against that desire, those impulses to just hold my loved ones and cry and want to spend all our money on something extravagant because who knows what tomorrow will bring. But tomorrow has come. It has come a few times now since I first started feeling that way. And we still need that money and that time and I still have to face my fear of myself or my loved ones dying.
And I’ve realized that I once again have to learn the same lessons over and over again. You can’t cram everything into one “live like you’re dying” day. You have to work little by little with whatever time you have. So when it comes to my babies or my husband, I’ve decided to hug a little longer, and one or two more times than I might have before (my three year old has been delighting in this at bed time where he realizes he can ask for more hugs and prolong sleep just a few more minutes). I’ve decided to take the extra thirty seconds when watering my garden and really love on the gorgeous colors around me, or to notice the perfect sky a bit more. I’ve started trying to verbally express gratitude again. To try and reach out to someone during small patches of time instead of waiting for the time to have a proper forty minute catch-up. I guess, instead of taking the advice of living like you’ll die tomorrow, I’m trying to face the double edged sword as expressed in Hamlet: there’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all
The idea of being “ready” to die seems overwhelming at best and impossible at worst. It turns me into a tiny scared toddler screaming “NO! I don’t want to!”. But maybe I can just keep taking a deep breath and one hug, one rosary, one kind act, and one preparation at a time, I’ll get there.
As the news spread on facebook and through other means of my friend Jason’s death, the memories began to flood in. Some of them were of specific, stand-out moments, but mostly they were just affirmations over and over of what a funny, kind, and genuine person he was and how much we all love him. I know that personally I couldn’t impact people like that by “living like you’ll die tomorrow”. But maybe we can do it by living with, as my friend Zac so perfectly put it, “reckless generosity and love” over a lifetime, however long or tragically short that lifetime is. So I’m going to try to do that.