I thought that when my dad died I made friends with death.
After the shock, the pain and the suffering that my father wasn’t returning to planet Earth, an acceptance swept over me.
After the aftermath, I gave his death meaning. I made a vow, a promise to both him and myself that I would live for him and he would live through me. I took it upon myself to live a life with purpose and meaning and allow him to see life’s beauty through my eyes.
It sounds so poetic and happily-ever-after, but the pressure of this consumed me. I wanted to live life hard and fast, and I wanted to experience everything all at once. Patience never was my virtue, and, with my father’s death, I only became more impatient. I felt as if I was on this time line and that life was running out. Everything had to happen now, otherwise I’d move on to the next thing.
For a while during my late teens and early 20s, I drowned in this abyss of no man’s land. Never committing to anything—relationships, jobs, countries. I was unsettled and unnerved, and I lived off adrenaline.
I believed that my father would be proud of me, but I was in pain. My emotions fluctuated in the same way that the seasons and weather changed in the United Kingdom, and, before I knew it, I’d burnt out and was resorting to alcohol, cigarettes, and meaningless connections to numb my pain.
I was like the Tasmanian devil, a whirlwind of chaos uprooting everything in my path until finally I burnt out.
Life went back to normal, and my father’s death soon became a distant memory and the drudgery of life unfolded before me as I welcomed it in.
You see, no one can keep up living life in the fast lane, but no one who wants to live a life with meaning can continue their monotony of life without a wake-up call.
So, at 38, 20 years after my father’s passing, I found myself surrounded with people (who I care a great deal about) losing their loved ones. It wasn’t my pain to feel, it wasn’t my story, and neither my journey, however, I took time to speak to the people who knew they were slowly dying.
My only request now is that when I go, please take me quickly and end my suffering in a blink of an eye and therefore the suffering of others that surround me.
I questioned why death was moving closer to me but not close enough for me to mourn. Every corner I turned, someone had lost a husband, a loved one, a baby, or was walking around in the knowledge they were a time bomb waiting to go off.
“How do you live with this uncertainty?” I asked. “Well, I don’t know, I just feel like when it’s my time to go then I will go, and therefore there’s no point in my feeling sad about it.”
I admired the being who sat before me. I know myself well enough to know that if I was given the knowledge that life was passing me by, I’d wallow in a pool of self-pity. I’d feel regret, sadness, and anxiety.
When I think about it logically, it’s f*cking ridiculous, because the reality is that we are all going to die. We don’t know when or how, but we know we’re going.
It was only this morning I spoke to a work colleague who’d lost his father in a car accident; “The only comfort we can take is that he didn’t see it coming and died on impact.” And then only moments after that conversation, I spoke to another friend of mine who, whilst comforting me, reminded me of the death of his daughter many, many years ago.
We walk around, obsessed with how we look, whether or not we have enough money, whether people like us or not, and so on and so forth—yet at any given moment our life here can end. It is going to end, but none of us know when. Some of us have a warning or an idea—but the rest of us walk around as if life is infinite.
I find myself fumbling over words whilst I worried I’ll be judged. Second-guessing my decisions and living in the past. I mourn over my dreams that have never transpired and sometimes, admittedly, I feel shame for whom I’ve become and what I’ve failed to fulfill in this lifetime.
But—and a big f*cking but. We should talk about death more, we should acknowledge it and honour it. It is our friend. It reminds us that really, we owe it to ourselves to be happy.
Whilst speaking to my friend today who has lived with this loss of his little girl for decades, “Leigh, you’ve just got to do what makes you feel happy—and if it doesn’t make you happy, then don’t do it.”
The Buddhist monks meditate over dead corpses, and when I heard this I thought it was a sick and cruel ritual. But now I get it.
One day, our physical body will be ashes to ashes and dust to dust, we’ll return back to earth and become a part of it. Of course, I believe that our energy will live on, but not in the way that we currently love and take for granted.
Leave no stone unturned. Be yourself and don’t look back. Love hard and do everything on your bucket list now—not tomorrow. Wear your favourite dress, spend that money that you don’t have travelling, and tell that person you love them.
Because one day you won’t be here, and all of this will just simply be a part of history and no one will ever know.
But you’ll know.