Contemplating Our Mortality...
Hello and welcome back to the blog!
Today, I wanted to briefly touch on the topic of death.
Can one really "briefly touch" on the topic of death? I kind of doubt it, but today I will try. I know it's a super dark and gloomy topic, but we've been writing for over a year now, and I feel like exploring a wide range of ideas and topics, so here we are! It's a long one today, but I feel like we're making up for lost time...
Lately I've been contemplating the brevity of life.
I've been thinking about the inevitable loss I will face when my dog dies, or the overwhelming question of when my life will end, or even worse, when the lives of those I love will end.
I cannot give you a succinct reason for this dark contemplation, but I have to admit that I have always been a person who finds her mind drifting towards the philosophical and metaphysical.
As a young child, when I was trying to fall asleep, I would try to imagine what the universe would be if earth didn't exist. I would think and think until my brain "hurt." You know... that uncomfortable feeling you get when your mind seems to be walking up a set of cognitive Penrose stairs?
So yes... mortality has always been at the back of my mind, but this has only been exacerbated since marrying a police officer and finding myself wondering if his next shift could be his last.
In fact, it's been exactly one year since my husband was involved in an accident while working. During a freak-ice storm last January my husband had gotten out of his police car to check in on a family stranded on the side of the highway in a Jeep. Police training usually encourages officers to walk up to the lefthand side of the vehicle to approach the driver, but that day, my husband approached from the righthand side, furthest away from the highway traffic.
While discussing the situation with the family in the Jeep, their vehicle was sideswiped by a semi-truck. The 18 wheeler hit the Jeep and the Jeep hit my husband so forcefully that he flew 20 feet away and landed in a ditch. He THANKFULLY made it out without serious injuries, but he still had to go to the hospital to get scanned and x-rayed in case of latent wounds.
I'll never forget the eerie feeling of seeing him laying in the hospital bed, waiting for his MRI and CAT Scan results. He was perfectly healthy, but just the image of my husband settled amongst the white sheets in a dressing gown while I sat helplessly beside him was enough to make my throat tighten. And not far from my mind was the fact that if he had walked up to the family on the other side of the vehicle, he would have been hit by the transport truck, and most certainly killed.
The thought still causes me to shudder.
But in that moment, watching him lay there in the bed, it hit me, that there could be a day when my young and healthy husband would no longer be young or healthy. That there could be another day when I would be sitting in a visitor's chair, holding my husband's hand as an old man, or God forbid, as a young or middle-aged man.
That January day, I felt something change within me.
It was like a fresh understanding had taken root in the innermost part of my mind, slowly infecting my entire perspective on life. Every breath felt precious. Every moment of laughter, every hour together; it all felt so delicate and special.
The weeks and even the year following that accident has been filled with tighter hugs, crazier laughter, and just... a stronger appreciation for what we have.
And strangely, this past Fall my husband went through a mirror-image experience of what I went through in January.
Now, I am fine and I don't have anything health-wise to worry about now, but I did experience a questionable health... situation... in late 2019.
In April I went to the doctor to get answers about a seemingly inconsequential and minor health issue involving my blood. I went in for blood testing in June and honestly didn't give the situation another thought all Summer. I had my blog and YouTube channel keeping me busy, and I was spending every spare moment working on my content and keeping up with all of my subscribers' needs. It was exhausting, yet invigorating. Time flew by and I didn't really give it a second thought!
But one morning in October, the doctor's office left me a voicemail imploring me to make a follow-up appointment to discuss my blood test results. Remembering that we could view the results online, my husband pulled up the tests and was shocked to find that the results revealed a couple irregularities in the tests.
The blood test results, combined with our shared knowledge of my family health history, seemed to be edging uncomfortably close towards a variety of autoimmune diseases, Lupus, tissue diseases, or at the very worst; MS.
What was surprising to me was horrifying to my husband. The blood tests seemed to trigger that "life is delicate" revelation that his accident triggered in my own psyche ten months earlier. He was suddenly contemplating MY mortality in the way that I had contemplated his earlier in the year.
After a series of follow-up appointments, the worst diseases have been ruled out, with connective tissue disease remaining on the table. The prognosis is looking good for me, and I don't have anything to worry about, but regardless, the experience caused us to yet again, snap into the reality that life is fleeting.
Not long after those follow-up appointments, we mutually agreed that I should cut back my work hours on the blog and YouTube channel to cut back on the stress I was experiencing while increasing our time together, and again, put the focus back on cherishing our life and the delicate nature of each passing moment.
This contemplation, of mortality, that we have both undertaken this year has reminded me of some crucial truths;
1. My faith and belief in Jesus are the most important parts of my life as they are the only parts of life that matter when I die.
2. My relationships are the only things that I can hold onto if my health, money, following, or livelihood disappear.
3. I should savor the lives of others, treasuring their wellness, and prioritizing their safety.
4. The small inconveniences, conflicts, and resentments I carry pale in comparison to the great blessing it is to live a life.
5. Life is a contrasting dichotomy of long enough to create need for a grounded and long-term mindset, but short enough to elicit a posture of mindfulness and joy in our present moment.
These truths have seemed to shape my life decisions in a profound way. I don't find myself worrying about how my beauty, my work, or my subscriber count compares to other people. I don't even find myself worrying about what people say about me, or what they think of me. And I can't even muster up an ounce of energy to feed the leech of resentment against those who have hurt me!
Life feels too short and too fleeting to worry about other people, or even to harbor resentment against other people.
Furthermore, as a Christian contemplating death, I have realized that it is not something to be feared. I should not fear death because I know that the moment I die I will be entering into Eternal Life with my Savior, Jesus Christ.
And I will receive this gift of eternal life not because of my goodness, but because Christ died for my sins on the cross, paying the price for my sins, and offering a way for me to be reconciled to God. And because of this, I take comfort in knowing that I will be with God on the day I die.
All of these truths I've settled on have been completely freeing while at the same time, caused me to feel a greater responsibility in this life. I feel called to cherish my husband more intensely and with more responsibility, but at the same time, I feel called to approach my work and my interactions with others more freely.
Life now feels much lighter and much heavier than it previously did.
Ultimately, I believe that the contemplation of death, from a physical lens AND a spiritual lens is a practice that every person should undertake throughout their life.
It's important to have a grasp on the reality of our fleeting existence, so that we might gain a proper understanding and appreciation for the human experience we are taking part in, but also so that we might be freed from the stressful minutia of life as a person in 2020.
It's easy to drown in the vortex of our petty relational stress, our insecurities, or the melancholy routine of daily living... but contemplating our own mortality draws us out of this internal dross and into an enlightened mindset. It causes us to love deeper and let go sooner.
I write this today, not to bring your spirits towards a pit of despair, but rather to remind you of the consequences that come with being a human. We are given a special treasure... to live as a person and to walk this earth, forming a life and connections with other people, creatures, and experiences. But this beautiful gift comes with the consequence of death; and death, no man or woman can escape.
Everything we know will come to an end someday, and I hope that you take TODAY to remember that life is indeed short: forgive sooner, hug tighter, and pet your dog longer. Try out that new dress, say what's on your mind, and forget waiting until tomorrow to live life to the fullest.
Most of all, I hope that you plan for your life AFTER death, and consider the Gospel; that we were created in the image of God, but that we have all, each and every one of us, sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are supposed to be eternally separated from the Holy God due to our lowly sinfulness, but God so loved the world He sent His only Son Jesus to die for our sins.
Having lived a sinless life, and being God incarnate, Jesus defeated death, even death on a cross, and rose to life, conquering death and tearing the veil between us and God. Now we can go to God in prayer and ask for His forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ, declaring Jesus Christ is Lord, bowing down to Him, and repenting of our sins. We can spend our lives walking in obedience to His word and being sanctified by His Holy Spirit, until one day when we meet Him in the flesh on the day of judgement, when we die or when He returns.
This is the miraculous truth of the Gospel, and it is indeed what gives me the hope that I will live eternally with God when I die.
What a beautiful thing.