Posted on | May 21, 2013 | 7 Comments
I didn’t watch much of the news coverage of what happened in Sandy Hook. I knew about it, but I just couldn’t watch. And when I heard about Moore, Oklahoma, I made a similar decision.
I just can’t watch.
At first, I thought it was disrespectful to the grieving parents and communities. At first I thought I should force myself to spend at least an hour letting the ticker tape coverage seep into my brain like a cancer of fear, invading my body and mind and leaving me shattered and weak for someone’s loss. And then I let it go. I don’t pretend it didn’t happen or that it can’t happen to anyone at any time. I don’t pretend it doesn’t hurt or ache or terrify me. I just have to let it go.
See, when I was a kid, I was terrified of dying. I couldn’t embrace the truth that everyone dies, that everything ends. The thought of eternity made my stomach ill and I couldn’t process it. So I pretended it wasn’t true and that it didn’t happen. And then, at eighteen, it happened. And I learned the truth.
But the true fear in life, the true horror of the world we live in isn’t that we die. It isn’t that we cease to exist and turn to dust. The true and heart-wrenching sadness is that it happens to the people we love.
I’m no longer afraid of dying. I haven’t been for quite some time. I don’t worry about what comes next or who comes next or why it all has to happen. I embrace my life for what it is: transient and temporary, passing quicker than I can even fathom. But death is still something I fear, just not the dying. I fear death not because it happens to me, but because it happens to everyone. Even my parents. Even my siblings. Even my child.
So when tragedies happen, like in Oklahoma and Connecticut, they sound the death knell in my head that rings a pulsating reminder that it happens everyday to someone. Everyday, a mother wakes up with empty arms. Every day, a father accidentally drives to daycare to pick up a child who isn’t there, not any longer. Every minute a heart breaks and aches and longs for a person who is just no longer there.
I don’t have to see it to remember it. I don’t have to sit and cry for these people to remember their truth. Instead, I choose to honor their truth by embracing my own: by loving the child that is still mine to love, by calling the parents who are still mine to call, by joking with the brothers and sisters and friends who are still a voice on the other end of the phone. Because death comes for us all, without warning, without sense, without any rhyme or reason. It’s inescapable. It’s without control or consistency and it arrives without preparation and often without fanfare. Death is just there. The period at the end of life’s sentence.
And if tomorrow, death comes for me or more achingly for those I love, I don’t want today to pass without basking in the sunlit happiness that is my life now… my life before death. So I keep the television off. I keep the news from my mind. Not because it’s not important or devastating, but because it is: Death is too important to ignore.
But you know what? So is life.
And I choose life while it’s still my choice to make.