Spoiler alert: I love “AHA!” moments. I really do. I love them.
I’ve had a long and complicated relationship with death. This is not a non-sequitur; it’s at the heart of tonight’s post. I’ve cursed it – when my grandpa died in 1975. I’ve wept at it – when my father died in 1985. I’ve marveled at it – when my mom died in 2011. And I’ve lusted after it – since I was three years old.
For most of my life, I have seen death as a friend. As a would-be welcome relief. A potential grant of peace. For most of my life, I thought I wanted to die. It was a consummation I believed was devoutly to be wished. In my devotion, I prayed for it. For the surrender to it. For the quiet of it.
So much of my life has been cacophony. In childhood, the noise of an alcoholic father. A mean drunk. Who was also the kindest person in the world in sobriety. Cognitive dissonance. Cacophony.
In adulthood, the clamor came from within. From a brain that never stopped. Thoughts that never ceased. Words that tripped off my tongue fast and furious. Mostly furious. A 24/7 mind that would not let me be – not even in my dreams. Continuous clamor.
No wonder death had me in its thrall. Anything to end the noise. Anything for some quiet. Some stillness. Some peace.
There have been times – many times – when I wanted my life to end. I thought about ending it. Medication took the edge off the wish, most of the time. Once, I made a plan. It was foiled. Maybe I foiled it. I don’t know. I certainly didn’t think so at the time. My team of therapists caught me, grabbed me by the nape of my neck, and refused to let me jump into the arms of the not-so-grim reaper.
A few years later, I sat with my mother in the lead-up to her death. As she took her final breath, so peacefully. There was no pain. No struggle. There was only holiness. I understood the beauty of death in a different way. No longer merely my friend, I felt it was my partner. We were tied together. I had no fear.
Last night, I was thinking again about my absence of angst surrounding dying. I realized how grateful I was to be acquitted of anxiety about the eventual end of my life. When it comes, I’ll be comfortable with it. Here’s my AHA! moment: not fearing death doesn’t mean I have to invite it in. Accepting my mortality is not the same as wanting to die. Feeling like I need to die. Imagining what it would be like to die. It will come in its time. When it’s ready for me. Maybe when I’m ready for it. Maybe before. I can’t say.
What I know now is that the task of quieting my brain, calming the demons, is mine. I didn’t know that – not for a long, long time. It’s a challenge I welcome. Slowly, surely, I’m acquiring skills. Noise-cancelling skills. Virtual Bose® headphones. Peace is within my purview. I can feel it – my new friend. Welcome to the family.
My vision of peace.