Death changes you.
The title has been floating around in my head for a few weeks now. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. It was just a phrase that kept coming back to me over and over again. Back in October, we found out that my husband’s uncle had brain cancer. It’s one of those surreal moments that you don’t fully comprehend until one day you do… and it becomes more than real. It becomes personal. I never had a close family member die since I became an adult. My grandparents died when I was in my 20’s but that almost doesn’t seem fair… I don’t consider being in your 20’s an adult. There is still too much uncertainty… too much “youth” that lingers to be considered an actual full-fledged adult. You still think that you are going to live forever. Death doesn’t touch you the same way.
My husband lost another uncle a few years ago, but even that didn’t touch me like this does. This one is different. This one woke me up and made me question everything. If he could get brain cancer out of nowhere, so could I. So could anyone. And then all of a sudden I’m noticing people dying all around me. Young people, old people, children. Heart attacks, cancer, accidents. I feel it like it is it’s own cancer eating away at me. And once it touches the inside of you, you can never be the same.
I’m not afraid to die. I’m afraid of missing out on life. I don’t want to be that person that suddenly leaves the earth without having done the things I always wanted to do. I wake up too early and turn the coffee pot on. I let the dogs out and fill their food and water bowls. I wake up the kids and pack lunches. I shower and dress almost mechanically. I check my email and Facebook and head out the door. I go through the motions of life and then as I climb into bed at night I wonder what on earth I did all day. What made me so tired and why can’t I remember any fun thing I did? Oh right… because most of what I do isn’t much fun.
School responsibilities, work responsibilities, house responsibilities. Make appointments, get the tires checked, stop at Trader Joes for something to throw together for dinner, sit at the computer for 2 hours figuring out why on earth medical insurance is so much more expensive than it was before they “fixed” it. I waste a lot of time doing things all day, things that mean nothing in the grand plan. Because one day you’ll die and the insurance won’t do you any good and the appointments will have to be cancelled anyway and so what if the tire is a little low on air pressure and oh, isn’t it just easier to call out for pizza?
Bring the joy back. The joy of living. I can’t possibly read another book on how to be happy or how to be fulfilled or how to be successful. What I’ve learned is that what works for one doesn’t work for the others. It never does. We all live here on earth, but we are all so different. And it’s so much easier to be different than to be the same. It takes so much less effort to just be who you are. So that’s what I’m going to do… be who I am. Wherever that takes me.
I had 15 minutes to kill before school pick-up today and I went over to Hobby Lobby and bought a new scrapbook album and stickers. I’m going to start scrapping again… it gives me joy. It makes me genuinely happy to look back over memories of my family and to see how far my kids have come. Nope… online photos just don’t have the same appeal. I’m getting my camera out and I’m taking real photos of real memories and printing them to put in real books that I can manipulate and journal on and can pile up so they get dusty and be something my grandchildren and great-grandchildren uncover one day in someone’s basement or attic. And they will look at the photos and the journal entries and understand that there once was a woman who loved her children deeply and wanted to capture those moments in these dusty old books because it made her happy.
I don’t fear death but I certainly refuse to open the door and welcome it in. I believe in miracles and I believe in prayer. I believe that you can absolutely wish something to be true. So while I’ve decided that life is too short to worry about a sink full of dishes and a scratch on a car door, I’ve also decided that even though death changes you, it doesn’t have to be for the worse. Day by day. That’s all we got. Make it count.