I recently read a cancer patient’s fear manual. It contained a combination of sheer fright and faithful submission to the breakdown of bodily functions. Her spirit was ready to soar regardless of what its defeated shell had in mind.
That was when I knew she was made for this. She was made to endure the process of forced separation, that would finally set her free against her will because death comes to those who wait.
She was made to die. And so am I. So are you.
But why does it have to happen?
I never asked to be born. It just happened. I was never consulted about what family I preferred or if I was okay with being born in America, while still harboring strong ties to a shithole country. I wasn’t able to negotiate my way out of the earlier events that weren’t necessary, and would inevitably disorganize my chances to develop without unsightly keloids blocking views.
So I guess I definitely won’t be able to avoid the catastrophic rites of passage that we spend our lives pretending will never occur — until we can’t.
And that’s if we’re lucky, because a ton of us are well aware that we’re not meant to be here for long. And that agreement is brandished in the hospital beds we call home or the dysfunctional mechanisms that define our impending exit.
But if you’ve been relatively healthy most of your life and have lived through the heady days of misleading omnipotence, there will come the earth-shattering period when you will have to contend with the horrors of living to die.
Death and fear will be the nagging companion in the background. It will distort even the most epic backdrops. It will steal the complete joy of mornings and sun-filled days. It will make ringing phones sound like bells of doom as you examine faces for signs of duress. It will draw you to death announcements more frequently, and force imagining what the scene is like when “surrounded by family and friends” and if passing away “peacefully” is really a thing.
Why do we have to die?
Well, in the evolutionary bible, it does make it clear that living forever would be a god-awful reality, not to mention terrifying in the most basic sense of survival.
In the Christian Bible, death is a glorious thing that we need to all aspire to because that’s when the real fun begins. We get to vacate the imperfect state of being on earth, and inherit the kingdom of heaven. The only catch is that we have to believe that some White or non-Black dude died to make us sinless enough to avoid that fateful detour to hell.
In the Buddhist universe, death is merely a journey that reoccurs with faithfulness of reincarnation. In order to die we have to transcend through the energy fields of rebirth, that promise with clues along the way — that we will do this again.
But why are we so scared to die?
I’m not afraid to leave — I’m just bothered by the “not knowing” when or how. And if I did know how that’s even worse because I have to watch myself disappear, and watch loved ones watch what I’m watching.
It’s probably best to have it happen unexpectedly with the shock of it written in my eyes as I vacate the world that no longer needs me.
It’s the waiting and anticipation that kills.
How did you get there so fast?
You remember through memory logs, the booked trips to beach paradises, the late night naughtiness at boozy venues in the electric city. The morning dew adding finishing touches to your lightly made up face, that was devoid of lines or the callouses on eyelids.
Suddenly in a flash, you’re a student of death and how the rapid disappearing acts have to be accepted with dutiful maturity, without interfering with your ability to maintain normalcy in an ongoing crisis.
Aside from the pain of loss, there’s the trauma that comes with knowing that you will do the exact same thing to do the ones who love you. And there’s extra stress from not being sure that your permanent goodbye will be as painful as it needs to be.
We have to die because we can’t live forever, and when you live long enough to feel the sting of joints, and inability to remember that damn song the way you used to — it will be the reminder of your increasing inviability.
Living to die or dying to live.
It all adds up to the morbid task of performing the role you didn’t audition for but you do it well enough to get the ending you deserve.
By the way, do they give Oscars in heaven?