They asked me how I felt approaching forty.
"I feel good! I feel the same, and now I will just worry about turning fifty. When I'm fifty, I'm sure I'll just worry about sixty..."
I expressed some of my fears about the intense speed at which time was passing by.
"I figure I'll probably live until I'm about ninety-five, and it occurred to me that I'm close to approaching the halfway mark. That worries me a little," I said.
I'm afraid of only a few things...snakes, getting pooped on by birds, watching a scary movie (and my husband falling asleep), and death.
I try to convince myself that reincarnation does indeed exist, but deep down I'm not so comfortable with that either. I don't want to take on a different body or be born in some small depressed tumbleweed town, or worse. My kids and I talk about what animals we'd choose to be if we could...a family of birds on a wire, dolphins, and and usually something small and cute. As convincing as I try to be, to ease their own fears of death, I lack conviction. The idea of any loved one leaving this life really scares me.
"After we die, we go to heaven when Jesus comes back to make our earth new again. He takes us to heaven and we are all angels (all white angels with white robes according to my children's Bible)," she told me.
I pictured the pretty white gates covered in pearls, fluffy white clouds filled with smiling angels, and wondered where we would go to the bathroom.
"You won't need to go to the bathroom because you don't even need to eat," she said.
Because I was a kid that cared more about playing then eating, she appeased me for a bit.
"Will we live in a house with our family...and what about sleep? Will we not need to sleep either," I asked.
"You won't need to sleep, and you won't even have the same family that you have now really. Jesus will be our new Father, and everyone will be your family. Everyone will be brothers and sisters," she replied.
"WHAT?!" I was terrified.
I wished she had never said that and I could just go back imagining all the white stuff, harps, and happiness.
A life in which my family didn't look at me with the same set of eyes was just about as frightening as the story I heard the week before that made me think my parents were going to burn in hell for getting a divorce.
I sang the songs, listened with an open heart, and sat quietly and respectfully. Yet, I was filled with just as much fear as I was with joy.
As I grew older, I sifted through the information a bit differently. My concrete mind morphed into something a bit more poetic and comforting. I came to the conclusion pretty early on that living this life to the fullest was the best way to not be so preoccupied with the hereafter.
Here I am, almost forty years full, and I don't feel near done. A hundred more years doesn't even seem sufficient (but very very wrinkled).
My dad would tell me that my grandma kept saying she's "ready to go."
She was eighty-three.
Will I feel like that when I am eighty-three? Will I ever grow so tired of this life I am ready to close the curtain?
When Chris and I were living in an apartment in San Diego, we would be woken up almost every morning with Pearl Jam's "Alive" blasting through speakers below us. While Chris loves the sweet sounds of Eddie Vedder, he didn't want to love them before eight in the morning. She was in her early twenties and she lived alone. She was the daughter of the landlord, and moved in one day without either of us really noticing. We quickly knew we had a new neighbor and quickly realize it wasn't a coincidence that the same song played with intensity every morning around the same time. She was just out of rehab, and I never knew much more to the story. As curious as I was, it didn't matter. She was happy to be Alive after what she had faced, and she was ready to start anew. We would be irritated some mornings, but Chris and I never stewed too long over it. We both saw the underlining beauty in our morning disturbance. I think both of us looked slightly inward to find a bit of appreciation even though we never spoke of it. I never really saw her face, that I can remember, but I will never forget her.
I have had patients say they wished they would just go to sleep and not wake up again.
I am able to somewhat empathize and understand their persistent sadness, but I always find it hard to wrap my head around suicide. Sometimes I find myself almost whispering the word due to its unsettling implication.
I think about how horrible their path in life must be to want it to end far too early.
My eyes fill with tears when I think about how grateful I am to be Alive and healthy, but also because I don't have to know what that kind of sadness feels like. I am lucky enough to cry happy tears over songs, parades and shooting stars. I am able to cry through my struggles, but keep hope through the process.
This Thanksgiving I am Thankful for Life and the chances I get to make other Lives better.