The last six months of my life, like always, has been pockmarked by many things. But it seems most significantly that the last six months of my life has been powerfully defined by the death of three people. Three pins pulled out of the map of my life, leaving behind little black holes, swirling precariously like an obstacle course on the road to my future. The edges of which nip at my heels as I pass by and I have to avoid getting caught and pulled into the darkness with them.
These are the kinds of phenomena that make me feel like my life has come to a sudden stop and give me vertigo at the halt. They make me feel motion sickness as the world spins too quickly and I desperately try to pull the pace of everyone else’s existence back to my own. I want everyone to put their lives on hold and wait for me to catch up. I’m not ready to move on. I’m not ready for past tense.
They made me think a lot about the fragility of everything around me. Not in the way that anxiety usually has me fretting with the ever persistent feeling that something bad is going to happen at any given moment. But in a way that has me feeling curious about how much more my life has yet to evolve.
One day sooner than I want to think about, my grandparents won’t be around anymore, and the childhood memories I cherish of them will be just that, memories. There will come a time in my life that I won’t be able to turn to my parents and ask them for advice, and will have to relish every piece that they have given to me already.
I might lose a partner or child, a sibling or friend, and I will have to make space to deal with that loss. I will have to face these tragedies with unwilling compassion and understanding. I will have to acknowledge that I can’t control everything.
I will be reminded that there are only certain things I can control, like the way we behave in the here and now. It seems that we never say the things we need to while people are alive. We forget to tell people how much we love and admire and appreciate them, that we value them and they are important to us. We get too busy to make a phone call. Sometimes we’re embarrassed to say so, ashamed of our true feelings.
I think we are also so afraid of death that we can’t accept we need to say these things now, lest they force us to accept that one day we might not have the chance.
Last year I saw my Dad cry for the first time I remember and struggle to tell my brothers and I how proud he was of us. I watched him hurt for the loss of a child and the pain he tried to hold for his wife. I watched my family bottom out and I learned more about my step-sister at her funeral than I ever got to learn in the 21 years that I knew her.
I learned true pain in that experience, but I also watched my family come together and show their love and support, sharing their raw and honest emotions about their loss. I have never felt more connected to them and I am grateful for this but I don’t want to leaves things so unsaid anymore. I want to make time, I want to prioritise love over work and ambitions and moments that aren’t now.
Retrospect is always a bittersweet slice of pie but we can use it to shape the rest of our lives, to make more of an effort to voice our feelings and strengthen our connections while we are still present in this piece of time and space. Sometimes we are not afforded the opportunity to say goodbye, and in that place we have to remember to tell people what they mean to us while we can.
Anxiety and depression tell me that bad things are going to happen and thus there is no point in doing anything good. That I am an intrinsically bad person. That I am worthless and pointless and so buried in the enormity of the universe that nothing I do will matter anyway. But through the raw and painful feelings of grief, I have come to understand that no matter how short or fragile or seemingly pointless life seems sometimes, it is still worthy to appreciate the things that matter to us, no matter who or what they are.
All we have is the here and now, and we have to live in this space because we have no surety in anything else.
Every day, every week, every month, every year, pushes us down different a path. Time forces our hand and makes us face decisions we never thought we would. We can never trick ourselves into thinking, this is it, this is my life now, because we will never know the course that our life will end up taking.
Some people will call this fate but it is just the result of millions of people existing together, with every person in every second causing a butterfly effect on one another.
There isn’t much to be done when people we love leave life as we know it, except try to wear their lives like badges of experience. We can take on the lessons they would have wanted us to learn and give them a little place in our own lives, to foster the values they held the closest and live our lives a little better than before.
Life is complex and dark and beautifully tragic. Every second is a loss of one thing, but it is also the birth of something else. We are all on a terminal trail around the sun and we can do nothing more than grasp every moment we have and make the most of it.