I don’t remember the very first time I felt my mortality. Or how I knew we all had an expiration date. I know I was young, probably around elementary school age. Three distinct events shaped my idea of death though. I attended a wake probably around age six; the deceased was a stranger and I can’t tell you why I was there except I remember how she looked–elderly with her eyes closed as if she was a sleep. I remember thinking this is odd, why is she in this box? Second wake and first funeral attended was for my dad’s family friend. He was a sweet, live life to the fullest kind of guy. I played with his daughter, Giselle, all the time and one day, he was hit by a drunk driver on his motorcycle. At his wake, he wore sunglasses because apparently his eyes were… messed up? I remember feeling weird again, this time wondering if I should grieve or not.
The weight of his absence didn’t hit me until I realized Giselle would no longer have her father around. I couldn’t cry but I remember that fear beginning to embed itself. The final event that had me really think about death was this bible camp my parents sent me to. It was one summer, it was free and it kept me busy. I was about 8 and I would walk to the building where it was held. I learned about different stories, some ultra familiar and others I didn’t know too much about. Then there was this one kid, I swear he was a teenager. He scared the shit out of me and he said I was a sinner. That we were all born in sin, no amount of good acts we did could counter act that.
I was fucking shocked. He said the only way for me to get into heaven was to accept Jesus Christ into my heart. Which I did that day because he scared the living shit out of my eight year old self. Who goes around telling kids, they’re sinners and they will go to hell if they don’t accept this certain idea/person in their life and heart?!
After that, my mother’s whole “you’ll go to hell for that” took on a whole other meaning. She said if I lied or took the Lord’s name in vain, I was going to hell.
My carefree, anxiety free life didn’t last too long. I would think about death often. How I would die. Where I would go. Who would be there. I still stay up at night with those thoughts and how everything is so temporary. It’s a heaviness that sticks with me. It’s been there since I was a kid, since the moment I found out that nothing lasts forever. And who knows where you’ll end up after!
That weight was very acute when my grandmother passed away when I was in high school. I grieved earnestly that time because I spent so many summers with her. I entered adolescence and she was there braving my newfound defiance. So much I wished I could have said, so much I wanted to do with her around. When the heavy weight in my chest comes, that anvil weighing me to Earth telling me that my time is limited; I don’t really know what comforts me other than the stories. The stories of who these people were and what they mean to me. And how much I want to mean to people I care for. The stories they will tell about me will probably be full of laughs, a few tears, and here’s to ending up being in someone’s memoir!