At some point each one if us comes face to face with our own mortality.
Before you get all, “shit, this is gonna be a Debbie Downer post!” just hear me out.
I got a call Friday night from J Mac. She was in a mood. She is typically so vibrant and cheery that when she hits a funk, she really feels it.
She is now 38. Has never been married, hasn’t got kids and doesn’t want any, and to a certain extent, still lives life like a 21 year old college kid. She’d give you the shirt off her back, though, and she’s one of the most important people in my life. I’d be lost without her.
She is planning to go back to New York this summer to attend her cousins wedding. She was hoping I’d go as her “date” but I’ll be in the middle of the summer’s second session so she’s going with our mutual friend, Cole.
As she was talking to friends about the trip, she was told that a childhood friend of hers had passed away. “Fuck, Lee! That’s 4 friends in 2 years! What the fuck is going on??”
I sat there for a moment trying to find the words that she needed to hear but the reality is that I too have wondered that same thing, lately.
It started when Colton passed away. Then a few weeks after that a former classmate died from complications from diabetes. Then another passed from cervical cancer. All under the age of 45.
“I don’t know, Jessi. We’re too young to be burying our friends, aren’t we!” Was all I could say.
I remember my mother talking about her childhood friends passing from time to time. “Annie had cancer, ya know?” Or “Ronald had a massive heart attack and didn’t make it!” These people were old, though! At least to me they were.
As I look back, some of them really weren’t. Her friend and our neighbor, Rosemary died from cancer. She was about 50 at the time. A member of our church passed away after trying to fight off a viral infection for months. He was only 42. Then there was my brother: leukemia at 41.
I guess it was all relevant at the time. I was a child. Sometimes literally and others figuratively but compared to now, I was no more than a newborn.
After 3 hours on the phone with her, it made me think long and hard. I’m not invincible. I have an expiration date stamped on me somewhere that no one can see. I too, will be one of the whispers that my friends discuss while shaking their head.
But, here’s the weird thing about that…. I’m ok knowing this. I’m at peace with the idea that I too could be gone from this place sooner rather than later.
No, I’m not suicidal. Geesh!!
Neither am I depressed, morbidly fascinated with death or naive that I’ll be one that lives to the ripe old age of 120.
I’ve seen pain and suffering from those I’ve loved and seen how death actually released them from that. I’m educated enough to know that cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease and Alzheimer’s run in my family and I will more than likely be afflicted with at least one.
I’m at peace because I look at my life and wonder, “what was my job while I was here?”
I have two beautiful daughters and an amazing grandson. I’ve loved and been loved in return. I’ve seen progress, even though small, with regards to how people of color and gays are treated. I’ve lived through two wars that some debate as to whether or not we should have been in them.
I’ve made mistakes but none I couldn’t recover from. I’ve hurt those I care about but always tried to mend the damage.
I’ve created amazing structures that my grandson can proudly drive past one day and say, “my Nonni built that!”
I’ve touched lives and allowed mine to be touched. I’ve felt pain and fear, hate and anger, love and loss.
In short…. I’ve done it all.
So no, I don’t fear the day I’m forced to leave this world. I’ll do everything in my power to postpone it, but I hope I can exit with dignity and courage.
In the meantime, I’ll love Julie and push forward with my plans to continue to work to be the person I am destined to be and the person she needs me to be. I’ll love and support my children and grandson and occasionally give them the kick in the ass we all need from time to time.
I wish I had been more comforting to J Mac. I wish I’d have been able to find the words she needed to hear. Hopefully, she found at least some of the same peace from our conversation that I did.