This blog post is not about adventure. It is not about fun or happiness or sunshine. It is not about memories yet to be made or exciting experiences. It’s just about what is and about what is not.
Death. It’s a sad part of life, but it is still just a part of life. From the time we are old enough to understand that we will never see someone again (and often even before), we are taught to fear death. We are taught that it’s something dark and ugly that we should cry about alone in our rooms, but not talk about or share our feelings about. We are taught that funerals should be a place for crying and mourning our own loss of a loved one instead of celebrating the life of the person who has died. We are taught to be selfish and be sad when we lose someone, even if their death marks the end of a long, difficult, and painful battle. We are taught that death is an ugly, scary thing that we should fear and avoid and that we should not plan for or talk about. We are even taught that it isn’t polite to say “died” or “dead” but that we should use euphemisms such as “passed on,” “left us,” and “passed away” instead. I am not saying that you shouldn’t cry when someone you love dies. It’s okay to experience whatever emotions you have and to experience them freely. I’m just saying that we been socialized to cry and be miserable and that maybe that isn’t the most healthy way of dealing with death.
Literally everyone is dying. From the moment we are conceived until the moment we leave this world, we are on a journey that culminates in our death. It does absolutely no good to fear death because it is completely inevitable. You will die. Everyone and everything you love will die. I’m not being morbid, that’s just the way the world works. It doesn’t help to fear death or be extra cautious, because living and eventual death have a perfect positive correlation. You cannot have one without the other.
J.K. Rowling’s quote is so lovely and true. Something in life is going to go wrong. No one is perfect, no one’s life is perfect, and we are all delusional for thinking that there are perfect people with perfect lives somewhere out there in the world. This is one of innumerable valuable lessons that Jo Rowling has taught me. If you are constantly afraid of dying or of the people you love dying, it’s impossible to really live. If you are constantly so upset about your loss of someone else or your fear of failing or dying yourself, you merely exist.
People with anxiety disorders don’t get that. I didn’t get that until very recently. I have been living my life so terrified that I or someone close to me would experience tragedy or die that I am 23 years old and have barely lived my life. I have made so many choices that I regret based on a deep seated and socialized fear of death. I realize that my anxiety is more extreme than the typical person’s, but I wouldn’t go off of rope swings or travel away from my family because I was so terrified of death.
My grandmother and my dog are actively dying and I don’t know when they will die. My dog has an 11.5cm tumor on her liver and can’t regulate her blood sugar. Her belly is swollen. She feels pretty good most of the time, but there are times throughout the day when you can definitely tell that she doesn’t feel good. With Missy, we have the option of ending her suffering and preserving her good quality of life. When it comes down to it, we will not be selfish. We will let her go when she needs to go. My grandmother’s preliminary biopsy results show a grade 4 blioblastoma multiforme tumor. We don’t know anything for sure, but based on statistics I have found online, the prognosis isn’t good.
This entire experience over the past week has been confusing and complicated. I was hysterical when I initially found out about Missy’s tumor, but I had to accept her death very quickly. We had an appointment to “put her to sleep” (another euphemism for death/dying) one week ago today. She is still here and I have had one more week with her than I ever imagined I would a week ago. I have been so incredibly privileged to spend time with her over the past week.
In January when I visited my grandparents, I recorded my grandmother talking about visiting the White House, meeting Elvis, and playing with my brother and I when we were small children. In April, I had the enormous privilege and honor of conducting an over two hour long audio-recorded interview with my grandmother as part of a project for my Developmental counseling class about her life experiences. While she wasn’t feeling well when we conducted the interview, her tumor wasn’t impacting her memory or speech yet at that time. While she can still speak, she can no longer move her left side or walk and has experienced some confusion and forgetfulness over the past few days. I have been meaning to audio-tape my grandmother about her incredible life for several years, but only finally got around to it just in time because an assignment forced me to. My professor gave me an absolutely amazing gift by giving me this assignment and my grandmother gave me an even greater one by sharing her life story with me.
I am sure that I will cry when they die, but I am equally sure that I will not be as completely hysterical as I have been over losses in the past. Instead, I will actively and consciously remember everything that I have to be thankful for and the wonderful and enormous ways that they positively impacted my life. I will cry for myself, but I will smile for them and remember the time I have spent with them fondly.
Any way you look at it, it seems like my life is kind of falling apart right now. It’s strange, but I don’t feel overwhelmed or super sad about everything that is going on. Instead, I just feel so incredibly grateful for the extra week I have had with my dog and the audio-tape I have of my grandmother. Her voice is only ever going to be a click away. I am also incredibly grateful that even though everything is happening very quickly right now, I will have an opportunity to go see my grandmother and support my mom soon. I guess I have just finally learned that life is going to happen and there is nothing I can do about it except appreciate the meaningful events and try to live it to the complete fullest.