TRIGGER WARNING: DEATH MENTION
Yesterday I received news that an academic acquaintance dropped dead of a heart attack. He was in his early 40s and I had been to his wedding. He was in the middle of writing a paper that was really interesting. I was not at all close to him, and hadn’t spoken with him in ages – but he worked very closely with a friend of mine and this friend mentioned his email inbox was full of very sad academics. ‘I used to say he should… ‘ ‘He always did this…’ ‘He was so (positive thing)…’
Watching at a distance, seeing this unfold, it’s a story that has happened before. We live like we have forever, but none of has even the guarantee of today. Then there’s flurry of communication; communication that somehow hasn’t happened in months or even years.
I see the tributes after life, but not in life. All the letters, emails, after life, but not in life. A phone call was received. Why the bloddy hell do we not say these things when people are here? What does it take to teach us? -This ultimate slap in the face wakes people up to human emotions and somehow the veil is lifted and they say, feel, and yes, grieve. I am sorry for that. I am so sorry it takes death to wake us.
After the outpouring, I fear the veil comes down again. Indeed the nails often shut the box of ourselves and connections completely.
What to do about it? I feel like the advice I was given when my youngest son would get really angry and grustrated as a child applies here:
I want to say words are all we have; I know they are not, but in this (still lingering) pandemic where people are separated, and touch and gesture are almost things of dreams, words are important. Write them; say them; tell people. It’s not what society does, but make it what you do.
On my daily run, I talk to people – and it started like being on the underground. After nearly a year, people not only reply, but say things back. Unsolicited, often very nice things – little bits of encouragement – keep going, you’re doing well! and they smile. It doesn’t have to be your deepest feelings that you share, but if you think it and it is nice, and it could brighten someone’s day, and you have the opportunity to say (or write) it, do it.
Like you, I live like I am a super-hero and will live forever, but in truth I won’t, and I am so glad I woke up today. I will walk into the sunrise. I will tell people things. I will still plan for all the tomorrows to come, but I will jolly well live today.