Last night I found a geocache in a cemetery, and this sparked a conversation about death. Or, rather, about what my friend wants to have happen to her when she dies. She’d opt for cremation, and has plans for friends to help her husband with her collectibles. Such a calm, reasoned plan in the face of the inevitable, and I envy her equanimity.
Me? I don’t even like to think about it. Thinking about death, most specifically mine, still has the power to provoke an anxiety attack. I’m not ready to face it. I believe in real death; that you disappear from this world. We will leave it and be forgotten entirely. Not immediately, but certainly by the time the sun dies its death. By that time, no living being will remember us and whatever influence we had will long have faded into nothingness.
Religious adherents may be tempted to argue with me at this point, or tell me to find God and find comfort. I’ve spent years thinking about that aspect of the situation. If that works for you, great. That line of argumentation has never worked for me nor resonated true with me. I don’t believe, and I’m not going to sacrifice a heart-felt truth for comfort. Do you prefer comfortable lies or uncomfortable truths? I prefer uncomfortable truths.
Except that, when I can, I would avoid thinking about this one.
But even believing that in the end we disappear, there is still the question of what is my purpose in this here and now. I do not choose to live a purposeless existence. Even if every act is eventually erased.
Certainly part of it is to do my best by my students. To teach them not only about math but to try to give them wisdom and strength to get through life. An idea or a thought, source forgotten, that helps them find their path and their purpose.
Another part of my purpose is to write. Here, this blog, this is practice. I don’t know what exactly it is I have to say yet, but writing here, day by day, I hone my craft and tune my voice. And wait, and watch and think. I will find my message and my way of writing it.
A last part is certainly in human connection, but this part has me lost. It is something I should write about at a future time. Suffice for now to say that I find myself in middle life, alone, but for family of choice (and some by birth that I am less close to). Not a path I chose for myself, but one that circumstances thrust upon me. It gets to me sometimes, though I have found much comfort this past year in focusing on the love I can give rather than the love I wanted to find. Focus on what you can control, and keep moving forward.
Your friend and I have had this conversation on several occasions. I would not presume you to tell you to find God and comfort if you are not interested in that. How rude for people to do that. I have had more than enough losses in the past months and I would prefer to think they are where they believed they would go. I believe that my purpose here is to make even a little part of this planet and its people better than when I came here. That gets me through each day. The conversations about how I want things taken care of when I go started when my uncle died in 1996. Between my mother and myself, we just didn’t want so much pomp and circumstance surrounding our demise. Expect good Irish whiskey, Diet Coke (for my non-drinking friends) and probably Sangria to be a part of my wishes.
As for the rest of talking about it, I don’t want to think about it today. I will live! Live! Live!
Part of me thinks even now that it would be very very nice to find God and comfort. But I don’t believe that is the way things work. No matter how I try.
I have noticed that this lack of belief certainly makes believers uncomfortable.