The best way to die is quickly. Being shot by a sniper in a parking lot while enjoying an ice cream cone would be both painless (if the killer was an excellent shot, critical) and ensure that my last moments on earth were spent happy. For the record, these are the kinds of conversation topics we bring up during lunch at work. I have the best work friends, because no topic is too racy or too controversial.
I don’t want a lingering death. I’ve thought a lot about it. A. LOT. I remember being so young that I might even have only been in kindergarten when I blurted out “I don’t want to die! Please I don’t want to die!” I’ve asked for clarification many times over the years from my mother, but she always just shrugs and says stuff like, “you always said silly, dramatic stuff. How am I supposed to know?” How did I come from this clearly unfeeling robot?
Even though I may not remember my exact age that I made that panicked declaration, I do know that it was while watching the Wonderful World of Disney (Sunday nights on CHCH TV 11). I don’t remember the movie, but I remember a terrifyingly sad scene where an old hobo (read: sanitized Disney version of a scary, toothless homeless dude who refuses shelter) who falls asleep with some sort of bottle in a brown bag and next to his scruffy dog/loyal companion. Give me a second, this was really traumatic for me. Ok. Anyway, morning comes and the dog is nuzzling the guy’s hand and whining. He keeps nuzzling and keeps whining and the guy doesn’t wake up. I’m starting to get concerned. I look over at my mom, but I don’t think she was tearing up (unfeeling robot), but she did look a bit sad.
“What’s happening, Mommy? Why isn’t that man waking up? Doesn’t he know that his dog is trying to wake him up?”
It was at that moment, my mom mumbled something about him not being able to wake up because he was dead. What?? I was horrified. She just told her five (maybe 6, but still inappropriately young) year old innocent child that a Disney guy was dead! I hadn’t even experienced Bambi in the theatre yet so I had no point of reference. Dead? What the hell did that mean?
Suddenly my world made no sense. I felt a cold sweat develop all over my body, making my onesie uncomfortable against my skin. I think it was then that I blurted out my “not wanting to die declaration.’
The rest of the memory is gone. I don’t know if my mother comforted me or not (my guess is not, given the aforementioned description of her being an unfeeling robot), but maybe she did, if for no other reason to stem off my theatrics before they got out of control resulting in another sleepless night for her spent assuring me that Dracula wasn’t real and Frankenstein walked too slow to catch me even if he wanted to.
Death was a biggie for me and I’ve never gotten over the terror I feel when I think about it. The premise of Final Destination about did me in and I didn’t even see the movies. I know I’m far from alone when I say I think about death, my own in particular, quite a bit. The only way I can seem to put some perspective on the whole thing is to try and focus on the here and now. Doesn’t sound too terribly challenging, right? It’s just that when you spend the better part of your life sharing the stage with your anxious alter ego, battling over brain space and what to obsess over next, it’s trickier than it sounds.
Somehow though, the older I get, I find ways to master this particular fear. Sometimes it involves worrying about the kids, thinking about work, or freaking out over a sagging jawline. Most often though, it involves reminding myself to get out of my own head and self-obsessed thoughts. I remind myself that I have so many other things, in the moment, that require my attention and my enjoyment.
Death may be inevitable, but so is living in the moment. The moment is here whether I’m anxious or not, so it’s best not to let it slip away.
Also, Frankenstein doesn’t know where I live anymore.