“You Want Me to Be Happy About Dying” — an essay by Ramona Grigg.by broadstreetmag on Nov 5, 2020 • 3:44 pm No Comments
Reflections on life, afterlife, and the reality of the dark, dark passage.
“Nothing in my life will be erased after I die.”
To most of you out there, I’m old. I’m so old, odds are I’ll probably die soon. You can think on that for a few seconds and move on — easy for you — but me, I’m stuck with it. I’ve had cancer — mastectomy, chemo, hair loss, radiation, the whole bit. I have high blood pressure and I’m mildly diabetic. My knees have turned to gravel and my teeth are wiggling out of my gums and escaping, one by one …
… by one.
But don’t worry, I won’t go on, I promise, since this is getting gross and you’ve probably already decided I’m a goner. If I’m going to get you to stick around for this I’m going to have to write the things that make you comfortable.
Because, of course, it’s all about you.
You want me to be happy about dying, since I’ll be going to a better place, I’ll be free from all angst and pain, and I’ll be meeting up with all those people I’ve been missing since they passed on before me. I’ll be crossing the rainbow bridge. I’ll be going toward the light. St. Peter will be waiting for me at the Golden Gate and angels will lead me to those stupendously gorgeous places I’ve been conjuring up and dreaming about my entire earthly life. I’ll probably be beautiful. And tall.
I had a birthday a couple of weeks ago. Before it happened, I was 82. Now I’m 83. I remember my shock when I turned 80, and it pisses me off that I’m still in shock over getting this old. Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this aging thing when I’m still so …
… I was going to say “young.” LOL.
I’m at that age — maybe long past it — where I should be looking forward to what happens after I die, since it looks like my life here on earth is going to be pretty sucky from here on out. Such a sad thing. Poor me!
I can hear those of you who know me laughing out loud. You know I don’t believe any of that claptrap. You know I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell or Hades or Purgatory or the Underworld or the Netherworld or anything having to do with an afterlife.
Once I close my eyes that final time and take my last breath, my brain will stop functioning and any thoughts, any memories, anything stored in that wrinkly mottled gray matter will disappear.
I will be gone.
But I will have left a life behind.
It’s that life I care more about, and it can’t help but be diminished when the emphasis is on an afterlife. If I lived my life as if any mistakes will be rectified in the life that comes after, as if any pain I’ve felt, any anguish I’ve caused, any embarrassment will be dealt with or forgiven, it lets me off the hook.
Nothing in my life will be erased after I die. I’m responsible for every bit of it. My triumphs, my disappointments, my mistakes are mine and mine alone. If I’ve hurt other people, it’s on me. If I’ve made some lives better, I just hope they spell my name right. (Ba-da-boom.)
I love believing there’s nothing left when I die. It frees me to try to live a worthy life. It obligates me to try to live a worthy life. It makes my life far more important if I believe this is all there is. And it makes it far more interesting. If I don’t have to dwell on what comes next I can live this life to the fullest. And I have.
So you can stop feeling sorry for me because I’m so damned old, and maybe help me celebrate this long life. This long, long life.
How about it?
And, as always, gifts are appreciated.
Ramona Grigg is a long-time columnist, essayist, and blogger published in several countries’ versions of Huff Post, as well as many other places. Her political blog, Ramona’s Voices, ran for ten years, starting on Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day in 2009. She is now the editor of the online journal Indelible Ink.