I was at a memorial service today noticing the many gray heads of those who came to remember a life well-lived. As I looked from one to another I saw in those faces a reflection of my own circle of friends. My peers both present and distinctly absent, would be sitting together all too soon as a generation attending too many memorials to count. I was struck by my own sense of impending death.
As tears welled in my eyes as the telling of this woman’s life was highlighted by that which had been most impressed on the hearts of her loved ones, I felt the deep ache of missing my own grandparents. With sudden unexpected clarity I looked at the woman I love dearly sitting in front of me. My ability to envision a different set of circumstances in real time creating a much different scene in my mind. One in which my sisters and I mourn a life also well-lived.
I realized in that moment I did not cry for the loss of the dead, but for myself. There is a quality about the death of another that brings into crisp clarity the blurry outer edges of our awareness. I, like many others in similar circumstances, am faced with my own mortality. I wonder if I have spoken words of affirmation often enough to those of you who hold a piece of my heart? I question if I will leave a legacy of great honor before I, too, am just a memory in the minds of one or two generations.
The simple act of living requires facing inevitable death. We can run from it or we can face it; either is a challenging reality.
Running from the anxiety of death itself often seems a welcome alternative to coming to terms with our own mortality, though. The push to live as though life is not finite is recorded through our various feats to stay young and in our propensity to soothe instead of allowing ourselves to feel the myriad of emotions that come with actually being alive. The run from death is subtle, so subtle even the watchful can miss it.
Life is passing by while I sit here waiting for it to happen, always wanting more than I have. I have an inclination to think that life will eventually get better; that I will have the relationship I want, the job that I want, the house. I mistakenly believe that I will eventually arrive at this place of rainbows and unicorns. Ok, maybe not that exactly, but kind of. I seem to always be looking forward to what comes next, often really missing moments in the present.
I run because life is arduous, because I want for there to be more than the experience I know. I run because I’m afraid that I will die before I’ve lived. I run because I want someone to say of me: “Jesus was honored by her living,” but I’m still wondering if I am enough as I fight my own temptations.
I come back around to this idea of mindful living, and I am beginning to see a common thread: to be mindful of the questions, fears, temptations, and joys is to be walking upright among the living. I want to live a life that invites an honest reflection, paying attention to the details, and of feeling the rise and fall of human emotion.
I must face my own death; I have come to know that the confrontation for me is a question of whether I will continue to live in waiting for my life to start…or whether I am courageous enough to grow, to tell my people that I love them without trepidation. That’s my question; although the day will come when you, too, will know the question you must answer to unlock your own anxiety over your unavoidable mortality.
In the meantime, practice speaking the words on your heart. At the very least you will begin to honor your truest self, even if you are in the midst of still trying to figure it out.