Death: the only sure thing

Death is such a taboo; it has so many different faces and layers to it that the majority of us don’t know what to do when faced with it or how to respond when it is mentioned and I don’t think there’s a formula to it. It’s a very sensitive topic, and I think that you would agree with me that it isn’t really the dinner table conversation starter. It’s more like the topic that leaves the room silent and hollow. But why do we feel so uncomfortable with the one thing that is universally true about life? Why do we push death to the back of our minds as if any of us can escape it?

Unless someone in a top-secret lab somewhere in Japan has figured out a potion for immortality, you and I my friend are going to be sans heartbeat at some point in our lives and to be honest it’s never made me uncomfortable. Have I cried and grieved over the loss of someone dear to me…yes, last year alone I was faced with the death of 4 people I know. I guess I have consciously accepted that death doesn’t discriminate. A 9-year old diagnosed with terminal cancer, a perfectly healthy 65 year-old that doesn’t wake up from their nap or the closest thing I ever had to an older brother, my cousin who passed away last September at age 26, due to a heart condition he had had since birth but was completely unaware of. We are all at the brinks of death at any point in our lives, the one thing we don’t have any control over is our own mortality and I can understand, as a recovering perfectionist, why that may scare you however there’s something about it that just shifts one’s perspective into another light.

We had these weekly lunch sessions in the first 2 semesters of grad school where students would come in and present some research they had done in their past, and someone had presented on how dying/death are perceived in different cultures. We were taken through how different people mourn, grieve and send off their loved ones and it was interesting to learn how some cultures don’t see it as a heartbreaking occasion but rather one that celebrates life. I mean the Central and Southern regions of Mexico celebrate Día de Muertos or as an English-speaking person may know it as the Day of the Dead. In Ghana they have funeral parties that are advertised on banners and sometimes can cost more than weddings to celebrate the life of the dearly parted…People send you off with a turn up (let that sink in for a second).

I was thinking the other day if I were to die suddenly and let’s say there would be a celebration, like other cultures, what would they celebrate about me? I know how morbid right? I can’t explain why I’m this deep I just am, bear with me.

I would like to think that I’m a charitable individual, with good moral standing, an honest person who’s kind and supportive to all…someone smart and ambitious but these are merely personality traits, aren’t we all trying to be better people? But what have I done with my life or what am I doing with my life? That’s the question people…

WHAT ARE WE DOING?

It’s very easy to be wrapped up in our daily lives, work, our family, friends, significant others. We get tangled in our feels, swept up by our stresses and distracted by the constant white noise of technology that actively reflecting on a bigger picture or life thus far becomes something that you have to schedule into your diary. If I were to ask you what would you do if you only had x months to live, would that immediately bring a thought to mind? Would you put your ego aside and fix a relationship or would you quit the job you hate and apply to the one you have only dreamed of? Would you go back to school or would you leave your small town? Let’s not play ourselves, if we found out that we only had some months to live, most of us would choose the path of uncertainty, the one that we’re scared of, that makes us feel vulnerable and out of control but that speaks to the truest parts of our souls. You would choose to not settle and have a ‘just to do it’ attitude. So why the hell aren’t we just doing that?

Two of my close friends, Sharon and her partner-in-crime Muthoni say it best live your best life, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard it or some version of it before. We’re all gonna fail and you better pray to God that you do because there is no learning otherwise and life doesn’t play fair. Death is gonna happen, but where many babies are lost in miscarriages or are born still, you made it to this point. So decide what kind of story people are gonna remember you by between your first and last breaths. We don’t live in the world our parent’s grew up in anymore, it’s gotten unconventional these days and doing what you love isn’t so “radical” anymore. So do it. That instinct you have that pushes you towards something while you try to tell it to hush, let it be and have faith.

If you don’t fit in that box that society labels as  ‘normal’ or ‘pretty’ or ‘worthy of love’ and you feel like an outsider or people think you’re weird when you’re just being you, don’t change…everyone isn’t for you and you aren’t for everyone. In a world of over 7 billion, being unique is actually the norm. They don’t want you to be you. If what you love to do goes against your ‘traditional upbringing’ or societal standards but makes life worth living for you, go do it.

If I’m to be lucky enough to have an instant of life review (life flashing before my eyes) when it is my time, I would want a life that sets me at peace and brings a smile to my face as I exhale my last breath, wouldn’t you?

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