I got 3 calls this week, from various members of my family, informing me that the husband of a friend of mine from high school — the only high school friend I’m still in touch with AT ALL — had died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 50.
I’m 47. Husband’s 53. I need to call my friend but I don’t know if I can do it. I’m afraid I’ll just start crying and not be able to stop — ME, when she’s the one who lost her husband.
I recently read Julian Barnes’ Nothing to be Frightened Of, his novel-length essay on his fear of dying and how he has dealt (or not, depending on how you look at it) with the death of his parents. I always enjoy his writing, but something he says in this book resonates particularly well with me — it’s not the fear of dying itself, the imagined pain and lingering and smelliness of the process, but the idea of not existing anymore. How does one reconcile oneself with that? It might sound kind of stupid just to say this out loud, but I just can’t comprehend it.
Despite my upbringing, and the tendencies of just about everyone in my family, I find that I don’t really have any faith to speak of. The whole idea of “God” doesn’t resonate with me, much less make any kind of logical sense. If we can’t comprehend our own evolution, how does our creation by a being whose own evolution can’t be explained resolve it? If we’re sinful by nature, how does the death of an Innocent absolve us? I may be too logical for my own good, but if it doesn’t make sense, my need for reason combined with my innate cynicism can’t get me past it.
So here I am, pretty sure that this is it, we get one time around and then that’s it, but at the same time I feel so strongly that I am so much more than this body I’m living in, and how is one supposed to live life as if every day might be your Last, when what you really want to do is stay home with Husband and make good food and drink cappuccino and read that book you started; but if it’s not your Last, then you’ve blown off work and gotten your a@# fired and now who’s going to pay the mortgage? (Especially if Husband felt the same way, &c, &c.)
Husband and I talked about this tonight, over the last bits of the night’s bottle of wine and the first period of the Red Wings game. We’ve reached no definitive conclusions, except for this: if either one of us dies “early,” and unexpectedly, I’m going to be really, really pissed.
Husband: “Now there’s something to be frightened of. You dead, and angry.”