Reflections on Death: Life, Guns, and Goodbyes.

Life is so much more precious than I ever gave it credit for.

Is it even possible to be truly alive for every moment? I feel like we spend so much time focusing on what’s next or what’s past that it’s hard to soak in the passing seconds and get drunk on the present. I want to breathe it in so deeply I drown in it today, so hard that it stings my lungs and brings tears to my eyes.

I went up to the rooftop in the rain last night and stretched my arms out to feel the cold droplets falling on my skin, the wind rushing down from the volcanoes, carrying storm clouds. Where does it go, the time we have? How is it that when you’re gone, you just… disappear? How is it that the life we’re so immersed in can just stop, catapulting us into whatever’s beyond? What does it feel like to die? I stood there until my bare feet froze, wrinkly toes pressed hard against the red adobe.

It seems so strange that we can just stop being.

That we live and live and live and then, in a moment, we stop living. And all that’s left is our weird addiction to nail scissors, dozens of them scattered around our apartment, or the hats we wore as we lived adventurously all over the world, the crumbs of a last dinner hidden away in a dishwasher to be found a week later. Or the soft smell of clean cotton and wispy white hair and a lonely wheelchair. Things we’ve left our mark on. But even those disappear after a while. The nail scissors and hats are donated to charity. The wheelchair goes back to the hospital. The familiar smells fade and eventually we become nothing but a memory. A bittersweet, kinda good, kinda bad memory, depending on the lives we lived.

I know that we all die. In a way, it’s comforting. Every single human in the history of the world has died. It shouldn’t scare us. We’re all in it together, even if we go alone. We are not the pioneers of death, even if it is such a great unknown.

But if we all die, why does it feel so strange when someone leaves?

Why aren’t we naturally prepared for this foreign sensation of emptiness when we say their names? Does it get easier the more we experience it? Does it stop being strange to watch a person go from a living soul to a box of ashes carefully placed in the backseat of your car?

Life passes so quickly. And there’s no guarantee you’ll have a full one. I have a disease that regularly kills people off at a young age (not super likely for me, but the point stands). So if life is this valuable and precious, why do some of us threaten it with guns? Why are some of us so quick to talk about violence and so quick to wave loaded weapons in the faces of other living, breathing humans? The time we have is so sacred and priceless. How can you think yourself worthy to decide to end that time for someone?

So many lives are taken by disease and accident every day already.  You point a gun at someone else and claim it’s for protection, when in reality, you are just as responsible for the danger being caused. I am ashamed and angry at you for the casual way you talk about taking a life, for owning a death machine and not understanding the value of life before considering using it. We are already losing our loves. Stop making it worse.

In just a month, I have gone from handling a situation where people were talking seriously of shooting each other to cremating my partner’s father and now I’m saying goodbye to my great grandmother.

I can’t stop thinking about the contrast. Life is a precious thing and once it’s gone, it can’t be brought back. Ever. No situation was ever improved by everyone having a gun. Violence and fear are not the answer. Death is final.

I am lonely. I want to be with my family. But I think it’s better that I spend my time living as fully as I can here in Guatemala, that I work on creating my own legacy of adventure in honor of the life I’ve had handed down to me from my ancestors.

My great grandmother was a lovely, wonderful lady with the most beautiful snow-white hair and a soft, sweet voice. We called her the “Red Lobster Grandma” because we’d meet there for a special lunch together whenever we were in town. I can’t remember ever seeing her without a smile on her face, with a laugh peeking at the corner of it. She was soft and huggable and she would always demand that I play my violin for her, even when I was 8 and absolutely terrible at it. She smelled nice, kind of like a freshly baked vanilla sugar cookie. Without her life and legacy, I wouldn’t be here. She loved and raised my Grammy, one of the most important people in my life, and she was my Mom’s Grammy. And I was lucky enough to get to know her too. The world is a little emptier now. She will be missed always.

Mike was Will’s dad. I didn’t know him very well, we only spent one visit together. But I think he was maybe more important to my life than I can quite understand yet. I feel like I only truly got to know him when I helped clean his apartment out. I fumbled through hundreds of photos, the only one who could look at them without a crumbling heart. I pieced together a picture of the man I never met, an adventurer and a warrior and a thinker. The dad of four adorable little kids, the goofy young son in a bear costume, the brother with his sister, the young husband with a laughing wife. The pilot off to save lives in the wilderness. The guy joking with a friend. I could see Will’s face in his grin. I know he was not the same man at the end. But does that really  matter? He left a legacy of four amazing human beings behind him, he saved over a hundred lives, and he made sure his time mattered. I hope I can say the same at the end.

We all lose people. We’re together in this. We will all follow, sooner or later. Maybe tomorrow, who knows? I’m not afraid of death, only of regretting not making my time count. Let’s be sure to say I love you now, don’t hold it in. Let’s take the time to be with the people that matter. Don’t wait to chase dreams. Let’s spend time outside and doing the things that make us feel alive with the people who make us happy. This is the time we have. It’s not going to be like this forever.

 

3 Comment

  1. michael finberg says: Reply

    Do a ten day vipassana retreat.

  2. Beth Reeves says: Reply

    Edventuregirl — this is beautiful. Thank you for writing and sharing your story. We need more words like this <3

  3. I feel like I’m reading your journal. You and your mom write so well, you make me cry in a good way. Sometimes you make me laugh out loud too. Thinking of you all..xx

Leave a Reply