Befriending My Own Death {& Falling in Love with Life Some More}

“And as Christians we are meant to be not less human than other people but more human just as Jesus of Nazareth was more human.”

Madeleine L’Engle

My husband and I looked at each other and half laughed, half gasped, after the speaker said it, “I keep the date of my death on my Google calendar.” The way he said it so matter-of-factly is what caught me by surprise.

I do not think death is funny. It actually makes me depressed to think about, even for a second. I’m immediately transported to funerals and weeping family members and the unfairness of it all.

But I have been thinking about it and for more than a second lately.

Over the last year, as I’ve been lying in bed at night, my mind does its usual hopping around, but for some reason (blame it on my thirties) I’ve also been stumbling upon thoughts of my final days on earth. Regularly, my mortality swoops in over me in the darkness of my bedroom. I feel alone, just me facing my fragility.

Straight-faced and scared stiff, I want to reach for my husband on the other side of the bed. No matter the grudges between us or the regretful words we muttered in our rushing, I suddenly want nothing more than his strong and tender embrace.

In these moments, my own death feels imminent and real, and I can’t get myself to move a hand, to touch him. I squirm a little, but there’s no backing out of this one, I wait for it to pass.

I lay quietly in the thick silence, while my mortality sinks in one more, unwelcomed time.

Thankfully, as swiftly as the thoughts come, they are gone. Before I know it, I’m back to pondering what I’ll make for dinner tomorrow, what friends I need to call, or what books I need to check out from the library. Then, it feels like only minutes later, I hear my alarm vibrating across the room.  

Morning is here, my favorite time of the day. All is quiet in the house except the cats purring at my feet, reminding me to pour them their crunchy breakfast too.

Death is distant now, where it should be. The world is waking up again and with it my joy. As the first light begins to make its appearance through the trees outside, it pulls me from any melancholic imaginations and pumps me with happiness for the day at hand.

I pretend like those grim thoughts didn’t happen. I banish them far from my memory. “Whatever is true, whatever is lovely, whatever is worthy of praise… think on these things,” Paul writes to us. Growing old and unable to care for myself, dwelling on that final, frail season, separated from my children and all I hold dear, feels the direct opposite of anything life-giving.

I cannot possibly give death space at the table, and definitely not a date on my google calendar.

Who of us can stomach the thought of losing our youthful energy, our sharp memory, our bladder control, our smooth skin, and agile bodies?

To befriend my own death sounds horrifying to me as a young mom. I don’t want this morning of life to end with all its freshness and opportunities.

Did you know in the thesaurus there is another word for mortality? Humanness.

In the pushing away of my mortality, I leave behind everything it means to be human. Heavenly eternity is comforting for some, but I guess I’ve always thought it to be a cop out for facing the here and now.

I know I’m wrong to accuse death for being dark and dismal, the cause of all our painful mourning and inevitable separation and sickness. I apologize. Shaking a little beneath my covers, I start a conversation, a relationship.

Death, where is your sting? You are lovely and true. You are not the depressing one, I am. You only want to lead me into the dawn of a new day, of endless mornings, where I am steeped with hope and generosity, awakened to my humanity and ready to really live.

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