When I hit 15, I had my first experience with losing someone I loved deeply and it scarred me. In places I didn’t even know existed. It was a tragic, intentional death and my teenage brain could never – and has never – been able to make peace with it.Even with that though – death wasn’t something I became scared of. When I said goodbye to people I was hanging out with - I never felt the urge to yell “be careful” after them just because I knew how precious life was.
Because I did not know that. I didn’t know life was precious. Didn’t think it could be ripped away at any moment. It just never crossed my mind.
In my 20s and early 30s, death was a tish more “there”. I had Grandparents pass away – some too soon and some after a long and full life. Pain came with those deaths but I healed – usually quickly.Still – the thought of losing people and death never consumed me. I’m pretty sure I continued to take life for granted most days.
My late 30s have been different. Waaaayyy different. It has felt like the minute I passed 35, God decided to let me know that loss in life is going to be constant from here on out. The first 35 years were a free pass of good times and no fears….and that’s over.Each month it seems a classmate of mine loses a parent or one of their parents falls ill and the realization that this could happen to me almost makes me nauseous. I mean – yah, it could have happened at any time but like I said…pre-35…it never crossed my mind.
It’s like there’s a neon sign flashing that says, “ALERT: You are now old enough to lose people you love at any time.”I have attended more funerals and wakes in the last 5 years than I have in my entire 35 years prior. I find myself wondering “why” a lot more when it comes to the meaning of life and what matters and what doesn’t.
The fact that I’m going to experience losses – some immense ones – pretty regularly from here on out is daunting. No – I can’t live in fear and this isn’t on my mind 24/7. I’m just saying that though losses occurred forever throughout time…they never came with the knowledge that at some point – those losses would be mine too. They’d be inevitable as I age.I’d love to be young forever – thereby making everyone I love never age either…but that’s not going to happen. I’d love to go back to a time when death or loss was the furthest thing from my mind but those days are gone too. It’s happening all around me on a pretty consistent basis and it’s hard.
The only good thing that came with this daunting thought is that now I feel – almost on a physical level- how precious life is. I was too young to contemplate that before, you know? Now – I say I love you more. I hug longer and tighter. I say “be careful” to anyone who says goodbye to me as they walk out the door. I pray for the safety of my loved ones – way more than I used to.I try to stay in the moment and literally remember fine details of events. I try to come here and write things down so memories are not lost. I try like hell not to fear what’s coming or who I’ll lose first. I stop my mind before it goes too deep into thoughts like that.
I try to focus on the amazing things in life, give more than take and love like it’s brand new. I hold on to little things that make these fears less with white knuckles.Things like Conway Twitty. That’s right. The infamous man who sings “The Rose” – among many other famous hits.
Have you ever heard that song of his that literally starts with him and his delicious voice saying, “Hello Darlin’”? Those two words are filled with so much love and emotion that it would bring me to my knees had he said it to me. But alas, Conway can’t.Rambo can. He doesn’t do it often. About once a week or so and it’s always been so long from the last time that I’m completely caught off guard every time.
It’s always when he’s in the semi. He calls while I’m at work and I answer and all I hear is “Hello Darlin’” in a deep voice and my knees go weak and I turn 80 shades of red and I giggle like I’m 14. I never know what to say. I mostly want to say thank you to him…for the plan. For knowing he was going to call me, knowing he’d have to purposely do his best deep voice impression, and knowing in his head that when I answered he would plan to say those two words to me from a favorite song of mine.It’s the little things. Things like that – that I will document here for my two girls…so when they lose me and Rambo, they’ll still be able to smile at these little things.
These little things get me through the big, shitty things…that I know are coming. Some day.How about you? Do you think about death differently than when you were 10, 15 or more years younger? Do you fear it? Do things like Conway help you through it?