It’s only the fourth month of the year and I’ve lost two friends in my age bracket since the year began and it’s fair to say that I’m definitely having a crash course in getting older, losing my peers and well a little dose of mortality and that my own days may now be numbered. Ugh.
Let’s be honest most of us don’t want to think about death. In fact, we actively avoid it. Most of my worst dreams feature death being honest, be it my own or that of a loved one. Some of the movies that have scared me the most and that have given me nightmares are the ones where people are buried alive – what was that film called? I think as a child I often avoided the topic as who wants to think about it, yet alone think it will ever happen – it’s like a million years away, right? Well, it was!
Now here I am in my 40s finding myself having very strange thoughts about death as I feel scarily close and it’s smacking me in the face and not with my grandparents or parents but my friends and my peers. I find myself thinking about my friends a lot. I think of them buried under the ground. I look at their Whatsapps for “last seen” times that will never change and to say my thoughts are morbid is an understatement. I can’t stop thinking about them or IT. Death.
Death anxiety is extremely normal of course. I’ve been googling it, so I know! Anything unknown is bound to make us feel a bit anxious and of course death is the biggest unknown of all. Most of us are so busy in our daily lives that we spend very little time thinking about our own mortality, but it’s natural too for us to worry about our own health and mortality as we age. It’s also common to worry about friends and family after they’re gone. As those we love pass away around us it’s all a big reminder of our own mortality and so thinking about all of this s totally normal too and it’s natural that when a friend or family member dies that we take a moment and reflect on the fact that we will someday die ourselves.
Death is scary. No matter what your faith or personal beliefs what we have regarding death, most of us will have an element of fear attached to it because of the unknown and because we have so much living we still want to do. For many of us we may not fear death itself, but the process that leads to it – sickness, pain, being a burden to others. All the unknown things attached to dying bring fear to us.
One of the only guarantees in life is death. Death is unavoidable. So, as I think of my friends, amidst the feelings of love and loss, I find myself thinking what do I need to take from this and the overall experience as I go on in my own life?
Ultimately it makes me appreciate each and every day. I also realise that I can’t take any day for granted as any day could be our last. Did my friends at 38 and 47 wake up and think that day would be their last, of course they didn’t. They were likely planning their next holiday, or dreading going back to work after the weekend, like most of us.
None of us can take anything for granted and that’s why even on the shittiest of days we have to look around and be grateful for all that we have and even what we don’t have and make sure we appreciate each and every bit of it.
This last week as I pondered on my own mortality I’ve found myself looking at the scenery around and soaking in its every bit of beauty. I’ve hugged my friends and family that little bit harder and I’ve had plenty of thoughts about how I live my life and what my own “legacy” will be.
So we have a choice it seems. We can spend our lives fearing death, or enjoy the “present moment”, and not worry about that over which we have no control. This exact moment of our lives is the only thing we can control. We can’t change the past, a time machine sadly does not exist, and no matter how much we love to plan and map out our future, the truth is there are so many variables outside of our control we really never know what lies ahead, so we really just have to love, live and appreciate each and every day as if it may be our last and then when our final day does come know that our presence will be missed by someone else who will likely be sitting there questioning their own mortality and the meaning of life, as I have now.