I’ve been thinking a lot about the dead lately.
Not in a morbid way, honest. My dreams and nightmares are plenty morbid enough. Last night, I was living in a car with my family after we’d lost everything. My great uncle was alive but shuffling around in an overcrowded old mansion, piled high with junk. Everyone was overwhelmed with grief, slogging through it like it was a syrup. I stopped trying to fight it and just tried to keep my three small children clothed and to clean up after my cat, who had had kittens in the back seat of the car. Everything in my life narrowed down to trying to hold on to what little I had left.
With dreams like that, who needs more morbid thoughts, right?
But I have been thinking about the way we tend to think that life will not, in fact, go on without us.
For example, my own mother died when I was 16 and my sister was 9. I know that she felt it keenly that she was losing control of the future, that she wouldn’t be around to make sure that things happened the way she wanted them to happen.
Of course, twenty two years later, it’s pretty clear that life did go on after she died and a lot of things happened that she wouldn’t have been able to control, anyway. The future unfolds, with or without you. Your own individual contribution is important to the people around you, but they will continue to survive even if you’re not there. They don’t have much choice, do they?
My great aunt worked hard to try to make sure that her grandchildren would succeed in life. She passed away and they continued on with their lives, marriages and children, jobs and money, life and love. It’s not that she isn’t missed– I miss her terribly, so I can only imagine how much they miss her– but she had accomplished what she’d set out to do. They were able to go on without her.
I would hate to die anytime soon. I’ve got kids to watch as they grow up, possible future grandchildren to spoil, and a lot of writing left to do.
But it would be hubris to think that my kids wouldn’t go on without me. They’ll manage. They have to. Life is in them . . . that drive to love, succeed, procreate, that physical need to just keep breathing even when things suck.
We’ve all got that drive inside us, so we cling to life because we’re made that way. We’re not made with death in mind. A few tweaks to our telomeres, and we could theoretically go on forever.
But we won’t . . .
Such a wrong, isn’t it? Such a travesty . . . .
But it’s the reality that we have to deal with. And from watching what happens after others die, we can take a few notes and add them to our experiences.
There are things that will need to be managed. Email accounts that need to be purged, a Facebook page that needs to be shut down, and should my blog go on without me or should it be shuttered up and finalized somehow? These are decisions that are new to us, but they’re not much different in kind from stacks of old love letters tied up with ribbons. What do we do with those? Is it better to let the next generation sort those or to sort them now and deal with what they represent?
Why are these things important to us, anyway? Are they holding us to the past? Are they preventing us from having happiness now? Is there anything that will be relevant to others, or are our inboxes crammed with old hurts and soured emotions? Will someone read this and say “Boy, what a crummy life”? Or will they say “Wow, a nice letter. Must have been happy.”
I’m tempted, oddly enough, to go back to writing paper letters to the people I know. To make them happy letters, filled with concern and care and love. To make Christmas cards that are about something other than one-upmanship. To create more clutter in people’s lives, haha, just because I want them to know that they matter to me. I want them to know it tangibly. I want to leave some of my love for them in a way that they can point to and say, yes, this person cared about me.
It’s a ridiculous urge, isn’t it?
But fun . . . .
I think I need to work on my Christmas card list.