When you’re young, you don’t think about death. Or, the luckier amongst us don’t have to. Sure, your cat may get run over. Or the silkworms in your shoe box may stop moving. But that is death that is on the very edges of your life – you always know it’s there but it doesn’t affect you too much.
And then you get a bit older and you may lose one of your grandparents. They were there before and you loved them and they showed you how to arrange flowers, or play cards and gave you hugs and looked after you when Mom and Dad went away, but then they got sick. And then they died. You cry and you miss them but your life is still balanced because you still have your anchors and you believe that the world is fair, but that people get old and then they die.
But then your mother gets sick. She’s not old. She’s not young. But it isn’t something your mind has scheduled. It wasn’t part of your plan. And then she dies. And your world stops making sense.
One of my all time favourite books is The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. A sentence that has always stuck with me is this one: “Gentle half-moons have gathered under their eyes and they are as old as Ammu was when she died. Thirty-one. Not old. Not young. But a viable die-able age”. I remember when I was turning 31 and my mind was clouded with grief that my mother was dying and I couldn’t think straight because of my newborn baby, but that phrase used to echo through my mind again and again: I’m 31. A viable. Die-able age.
Because you see, it’s true. People around my age are leaving us. And I don’t feel ready (I’m sure we never are). Last year we lost a friend unexpectedly. And there have been others who have got sick and passed away. And it feels like a physical betrayal because your 30s is too young to die and I feel like we’ve been duped. Then yesterday on Facebook I found out that a girl two years younger than me at school had passed away after an illness. She was so young. And she had children herself. And my heart is so sore for everyone who loved her.
I guess what I’m trying to say is when did we get to this age where we started dying? How did this happen, that life suddenly got so precarious? Why are people leaving us? Beautiful people. Loved people. MY people. And how do we make sense of it?
I think that as humans, we survive with the knowledge that we may die by ignoring it completely. By pretending it won’t happen to us. But to me, that’s foolish. I want to look the fact that I may die square in the eye. I don’t want to be afraid of it. Because surely fear stops us from enjoying the time we have left.
Yikes. I blame the weather for my somber thoughts (it hasn’t stopped raining in Joburg for 12 DAYS). But I’ll leave you with something more positive from Albert Einstein, because maybe this is the way to look at things:
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
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