I’ve been thinking a lot about mortality for a number of reasons. I don’t like thinking about mortality, I don’t like thinking, knowing really, that at some point I’m going to die. It’s all part of a bigger picture that may or may not become clear by the time I’m finished typing this we’ll have to see where we end up.
You may have noticed that I’ve been absent for the last several weeks. To be frank, I’ve been a little depressed and a little concerned about a slight medical problem. It’s so slight in fact it’s not worth mentioning. I’m completely fine. As many of you may know, my father died a few weeks before his 45th birthday from cancer. So, when you’re approaching 40 and you start having medical problems that could or could not be caused by cancer, no matter how far-fetched the odds, that’s where your mind goes. I wasn’t convinced I was going to die but I began to think it was a possibility. That realization pissed me off and depressed me more than I think I was willing to admit until just now.
I never tried to bargain with my maker not to die. I guess somewhere deep inside I didn’t believe it was a real possibility. I’ve spent a long time practicing at the altar of atheism, so it’s not like I have a vast faith based web to fall back on as to why one person dies and another lives, why earthquakes happen in Haiti and in L.A. they’re buying $300 tennis shoes, why some fathers die at 44 and others live to be 112. All I knew was that when the shit hit the fan, whether there was an all seeing, gray haired dude up there who knew if I was nor or nice or not, I wanted to be able to say that I’ve touched some people, that I’ve helped some people and that I’ve made a difference. I’m not necessarily sure I’ve done what I can or could. I’ve decided a greater emphasis will be placed on good works. This isn’t some religious conversion and this isn’t some brush with mortality death bed type of vows. There are no fox holes here. It’s just admitting that I can and should be a better person. If not for me then to give my son a better example to live by so he doesn’t ever have these type of moments as he gets older.
So, all of this brings me to the other reason I’ve been thinking about mortality. My seven year old son has spent the last three days in a depressed funk because he’s realized that we all die. His mother and I both tried to talk to him but it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t want to die and he’s pissed that it’s inevitable. He’s so mad he asked his mom if she could help him speak to the real Santa Claus. He’s interested in the real one, not the fake ones found at the malls. He doesn’t understand why anyone has to die. Grasping at straws we even tried to talk about heaven with him, he said maybe he didn’t want to go to heaven, I mean the kid is pissed.
Outside of the sadness at seeing my son upset and the heart wrenching feeling of hearing him say to me that I’ll never, ever be able to help him with this problem because there’s no way I can promise him he won’t die I realized something. Our attitudes about death don’t really ever change. If you’re zen about it when you’re a kid you’re probably going to be zen about it as an adult. I was pissed off about the idea then and I’m pissed off about the idea now. I see now that my son has the same attitude. If I can take anything away from the situation it’s that the works of a person are what matters. They’re what you’ll be remembered for, they’re what will make the biggest difference to the people around you and I hope if there is a grey haired old dude up their watching (even if it’s the real Santa Claus) then hopefully he’ll look kindly on what you’ve done. I have to believe that if not it’s just darkness.