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.
8 thoughts on “Don’t Live Like You’ll Die Tomorrow”
I’m not afraid of dying. I’m more afraid of being left behind. When I am left behind, the heartache is consuming. I feel that if I died at least I’d still be able to be with my family and friends from a far. Maybe be able to even help guide them and hold them when necessary. I don’t want to die, I enjoy being here for my kiddos and others that take my love and let me care for them. After reading your post, I wonder why dying doesn’t give me more anxiety?
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very related to that, most of my anxiety isn’t related to being dead, but of taking care of things for those I leave behind. But also very much the idea of wishing I could keep everyone I love safe and not having to lose them. I think there’s a very comforting spiritual component to not believing physical death is the end.
This is such a great post, Amanda! The “live like there’s no tomorrow!” philosophy has always bothered me too. “Oh really? Don’t be prudent, don’t prepare?” The most charitable way I have of interpreting the sentiment is to ask myself, “If I died tomorrow, how would I want to have spent today?” To me, that doesn’t involve so much blowing off chores and making extravagant gestures, but instead just being the best version of myself I can imagine. Bearing my burdens with dignity, planning for the future with both optimism and pragmatism, dwelling on the good times and not the bad.
Also: I’m so sorry to hear about your friend Zac. Death sucks. If you want someone to talk to, I have a long commute and a ready ear.
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That’s a very charitable way of looking at it. YES, I think the thought of not procrastinating on being the person you want to be and what kind of legacy you might lead makes more sense than the whole song about skydiving and climbing mountains (not that there’s anything wrong with skydiving and climbing mountains. those are awesome adventures. Just a really first world kind of way of approaching it all?)
My friend who died was Jason (sorry if the post made that confusing! Zac is a close friend who was describing how Jason lived) and thanks for the offer to talk. A bright side is the way his passing has made all of us from college kind of reconnect and share memories together in a really lovely way ❤
Oops! I’m so sorry for the mixup—I wish I could go back and change it! I remember checking to make sure I was spelling “Zac” right; I’m sorry I didn’t double-check the name itself.
I’m so glad reconnecting with your other college friends is at least one upshot. When my friend Mark died a couple years ago, it was also sad to find that we had very few mutual friends anymore, like if I wanted to keep him alive in my memory I’d have to do it on my own. Since then, I’ve had a new reason to appreciate (and try to nurture) my friend groups where everyone knows everyone else.
Sorry if I’m rambling. I can’t remember whether “Share your own experiences” is on the Do or Don’t lists for being there for grieving friends, so if anything I’m saying is not helpful, please ignore.
No worries Owen! I just didn’t want others to get confused.
And not rambling at all. I appreciate the empathy/shared experiences and I appreciate and miss you!