At any rate, I wanted to share, because ... well, because I felt compelled to.
Here it is, complete journal entry from 30 May 2009, nothing changed, except names shortened to protect the innocent.
Saturday 30 May 2009
Where are the answers?
What kind of selfishness is it to want to bring a child into this world? As we spin on this great marble of blue and white and green, this beautiful place, with all its terrible truths? What selfishness is it to bring a child into the world. Even to ensure that child has a smooth life, a pleasant life, a good life, there’s the terror—always the terror of what COULD happen, of what WILL happen, of death. We watched an episode of a TV show today that had a lady say, “I don’t want to die!” And the truth struck me—how many times do we all think that? In the middle of the night, when we wake up in a cold sweat, dreaming of a world without us in it; in the middle of the day, when we nearly get hit by a car and our lives flash before our eyes, and we glimpse the possibility of ceasing to exist. What terror is this—the possibility of the utter ceasing-to-be of our consciousness? Sometimes I think I’ve found peace. But then the old terror renews itself. Even those who believe in an afterlife are sometimes frightened of death—aside from the doubts that may crop up (Maybe this IS all it is, and there is no higher power. What if I didn’t do the right thing in God’s eyes?). What beauty is it, what peace, to not fear death. There is so much we don’t know.
And on this beautiful day, as I sit in the comfort of my living room, I stare at the trees moving in the breeze, in the gorgeous sunshine outside our window, and I contemplate the terror that is likely running through the very essence of some extended family members. M’s Uncle J (K’s husband) had a seizure in the middle of the night a few weeks ago, and since then, they’ve learned that he has terminal brain cancer. They expect him to have two years, at most, with treatment. I think he’s had a good life, but he is relatively young. But even if he were old and had lived a very full, very rich life…would that make his impending death any less tragic, any less painful, for his family—for HIM?
And M’s sister, about the same time as their uncle’s seizure, discovered some bumps on her neck and went to the doctor. After several tests, they still aren’t sure what it is, but it could be lymphoma. To try to learn if it is, she’s having a lymph node excised in a couple of weeks... What kind of terror must that be, to wait and wait and wait, dreading the worst but hoping for the best? I had to worry about it for only a few days when my mother had problems in the fall—but weeks to learn a prognosis? What hell is that for her and her family?
I wonder how M feels about all this, whether he finds comfort in anything. I want to cry, and I’m not as close to them as he is. But am I crying for them? I suppose I am, as I cry for so many people for so many reasons, but I also cry for myself, for their family members, knowing what it is to have a loved one go through this, this fear, this waiting, this chance to “come to terms” with death, with loss.
I cry because at times like this, I always doubt. I vacillate between believing there is something more and fearing that there is not. The mind and the body, always warring—the body screaming for all it’s worth to survive, to not accept that death awaits it, and the mind calling for peace, trying to uncoil the knots in the pit of the body’s stomach, to slow the pounding of the heart, to deepen the breathing. Ultimately, they compromise—the body leaps up, to stretch, to expend the energy pumped through in flight-or-fight response. The body walks, outside into sunshine if possible, and the mind tries to shut down, or to at least distract itself by the sun, the sounds, the utter LIFE surrounding it. But then comes the melancholia—the realization that this all ends. Perhaps it doesn’t end, and only evolves, but such CHANGE! We humans dislike change, even if we say we don’t. Some of us fear it so much that we embrace it. But we fear it, nonetheless—we just cope with it differently. And what bigger change is there than death? We all go through it, but it’s not like childbirth or puberty—we can’t ask others who’ve been through it what it’s like and how to deal with it.
Yes, there are the folks with near-death experiences, the folks who claim to speak to the dead, the ones who claim to have been to heaven or hell, the ones who claim memories of previous lives and of life between lives. But we think they are crazy, or delusional, or just plain wrong. Or maybe, we think, they ARE right, but how can we KNOW? After all, we can only KNOW what we, ourselves, experience, and we often doubt ourselves, or fool ourselves.
As I sit here and write, I also reflect on the fact that when I volunteered as a hospice worker, helping those who were dying, and their families, my peace concerning death was greater. I still feared death—at least physically, I had the fight-or-flight response—but I knew that there are more important things—bringing comfort to those who are grieving the loss of life (their own OR their loved one’s), truly living and experiencing what we can instead of getting bogged down in what will happen, making the world a “better place” so that life isn’t torture (or so we help each other through the “tortures” that we can’t prevent). And then I get the crazy notion that that would make it so that death is the only thing we’d really fear. As if the human brain works that way—everyone has at least one fear—maybe spiders, maybe zombies, maybe clowns—but it all is ultimately the fear of what those things, in the fearer’s brain, bring—death. And then there’s the really crazy notion that if life weren’t all that great, if it weren’t happy, we could look to death as an old friend, as a comfort, as a long peaceful sleep.
Philosophers and common people alike throughout history have debated death, have pondered it, on its own merits and in relation to life, and have come up with no answers, so I ask, where ARE the answers? I certainly don’t have them, even if I like to think I do.
My head simply spins, my heart races, my breathing quickens, my tears fall. And then I look at my husband and think of my parents, and I smile and laugh and think "This is what it is truly about. This is peace, this is love.” These, who have nurtured life, fostered love, they are my role models in life. They are what drive me forward to try to make the world a better place somehow, even if it is in a hundred little ways, instead of One Big Way. I leave it to others to devote their lives to trying to find the cure for cancer, to battle for the rights of patients with Hepatitis C or AIDS, to try to end. Instead, I try to improve the world by planting another tree, smiling at the people I meet on the street, speaking words of encouragement. These things don’t undo death, they don’t make the fear of death or of losing a loved one any less. But somehow, they do some good. THIS I can believe in with less reservation than life after death, somehow.
But this isn’t about me—it’s about all of us—all of the people I know and love, that M knows and loves—even the people we really can’t stand, the people we sometimes think “deserve” death. How precious is life that we are willing to throw it away, to take someone else’s right to it? And who are we to bring other lives into this world to have to go through death, at the very least, and intense physical and emotional suffering, at most? But that’s the brain talking, the consciousness. The body screams that propagation of the species must continue and fights to continue life, to procreate, to force life into this world to keep the species alive.
I remember reading in one of my books talking about “life between lives” that someone in hypnotic regression said that Earth is chosen by souls who want to progress quickly, because it is a hard world, but one that teaches many lessons for all that. I also read another statement that one of the reasons Earth is one of the hardest existences because of the human body—the constant warring of the consciousness and the physical body; the resulting inner struggle is great and terrible but gives us incredible potential.
Maybe that’s so, and maybe it’s all a bunch of hooey, but who can say?