Monday, August 20, 2012

I'm dying, you're dying; we're all dying.

Time to write down more things that I'm pondering. The topic of choice has lately been death and dying (don't worry, I'm going to do the best that I can to end this on a hopeful note). With my grandparents' declining health, death has been in the back of my mind for over a year now, but recently it's back to #1 on the MindCharts. My grandpa's brother Marsh died last month and our family attended his funeral on Berkeley, California on August 11th. They showed a clip of him singing in his church choir and everyone just burst out crying. O, WERE THAT MY HEAD WERE A FOUNT OF TEARS.
Me & Uncle Marsh
You know how in lots of movies, characters out of the blue start acting like their best selves right before they die? I mean, think of the grandpa in Little Miss Sunshine or Boromir in The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. I definitely had a moment like that the last time I saw Uncle Marsh. It was in February at my cousin Justine's wedding. If I could sum up Uncle Marsh is one word it would be verve. At Justine and Sam's reception he twirled me around on the dance floor old skool swing-style, even though they were blasting the mindless techno-pop of the masses. Although I have no formal training and looked awkward & stilted compared to Uncle Marsh's precise steps, I felt so happy and unself-conscious stomping away with him--not a care in the world. That's my last living memory I have of him. Fit for a movie.

Until Uncle Marsh had grandchildren (in 2003), I always believed myself to be his favorite. He often came on vacations with our family (as in Grandpa & Grandma, their progeny and the progeny of their progeny), even if they were in Washington. One time when we were playing around in the river near our cabin in Crystal Mountain, he specially removed the bark from a two-foot long tree branch and shined it up with the natural oils from his hands. Okay, this sounds totally random and odd, but I seriously treasured that stick. I'm sad that I lost it.

Holding that precious stick!
I was thinking yesterday in church about how God can basically take away anything or anyone from us, whenever he wants. Dude, the Buddhists were onto something with the whole "impermanence" thing. And accepting this truth is what makes anything valuable at all. I value my relationship with my Grandpa because I know that at any moment I can lose him to death.

By talking about this I am in no way suggesting that everyone take self-protective measures and never become attached to anyone ever because they're all just going to die anyway. Ugh, GET BEHIND ME, NIHILISM! Nah, that's a miserable way to live life.

I would like to suggest an alternative. I would argue that it's possible to simultaneously (1) hold in mind the reality and inevitability of death while (2) maintaining joy and appreciation for life. Actually, think of (1) and (2) having a directly proportional relationship--the more we (1) stay "grounded" and mindful of our powerlessness against the forces of death, we (2) treasure the what few moments we have left in this thing called "life" all the more. (+/+)

Okay, obviously these thoughts are nothing new, but they're good to revisit now and then when I feel on the brink of despair. Death, decay, decomposition--they're unstoppable. Duh. It's weird but sometimes people seem to die in droves, and when that happens, it's tough to keep ya' head up. It's so easy to fall into the "Y EVERY1 DYING MY LYFE IS MEANINGLESS" but I try and rally and tell myself to FIGHT to just appreciate life and its treasures, even when I feel like those very things are being ripped from me. Ugh, sorry, this is just totally abstract, but I'm making peace with myself--this is just how I roll so deal with it. I would like to end with an overused yet apropos quote.

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."
-Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Dr. Seuss, take your pick (source disputed)