I think about dying sometimes.
I think about dying because sometimes people die.
I can’t decide how afraid of it I am. I tend to feel a little afraid of any situation in which I have no prior experience, or am missing a lot of information and don’t know what to expect. So I guess I’m a little bit afraid to die, which I like better than three years ago when being awake hurt so much that staying alive too long feeling that way seemed much scarier.
One of the worst things about being a divorced, single father is that there’s no one around to document life with my son. My little second-grader, thankfully, has several family members on his mom’s side who he sees pretty regularly.
But because we live far from my extended family, and I’ve been single for three years, there’s this huge chunk of my son’s life that only exists in his memory and mine. If I die today, he’ll only have a few pieces of visual evidence documenting our life together.
He curled up next to me on the couch last night. He wanted to look at old photos of him and us. Even though I’m an infrequent Facebook user, it’s still my largest repository of old photos.
It’s a time warp, because there’s close to nothing from the past three years.
If you judged and measured my life in terms of Facebook activity, it’s not hard to see the world turned upside-down in 2010, and stayed that way. My son didn’t recognize some of his friends from today because they were so young in the photos.
We got to Fourth of July photos from 2010.
“Look dad! That’s when mommy still came with us when we go to visit grandpa’s,” he said.
“That’s right, bud. You’ll see mommy in a lot of these photos,” I said. “See? There you both are. Look at that face.”
“That was one of my happiest years.”
“What do you mean?”
“When I was 3, and mommy still lived here.”
That sort of thing used to make me cry. I’m tougher now.
“Do you remember when mommy still lived here?”
“Yeah. I remember.”
We flipped back to Christmas 2009. There was a photo of him standing in the middle of my in-law’s old living room, a place he spent much of his first three years before the whole world changed.
“Where is that, dad?”
“Are you serious? You don’t know where that is?”
“I just don’t really remember,” he said.
I think about his grandfather—my father-in-law—all the time. We lost him unexpectedly one day, and some of us went into an involuntary tailspin afterward.
I don’t presume to know what happens after we die, but if it’s possible for him to peek in on his grandson, I know he is. He was an awesome grandpa.
I wonder what he thinks of me. Maybe he feels like I failed his daughter, and considers me a major disappointment. Maybe he hears me sometimes when I get upset with his grandson, and wishes he could tell me to chill out and maintain perspective.
Because we’re all going to die one day. And really? Who gives a shit about a few crumbs on the dining room floor?
Sometimes, I think about dying in my sleep.
I hope my son is with his mom if that happens any time soon.
She and I rely on mobile phones to communicate with each other. Sometimes when one of us is particularly busy and distracted, or we have our phones plugged in and away from us, the other worries that something bad might have happened after we don’t get responses to texts, or our calls go unanswered.
If enough hours go by, I start concocting potentially terrifying stories and possible explanations in my head, because that’s what I do sometimes in the absence of facts.
At my son’s age, even though he’d be really upset and afraid, I think he’d be able to use my phone to reach his mom. I think he knows to go to the neighbors for help in an emergency.
I hope he’ll be okay.
I hope my life choices didn’t add up to a freakish moment where a young child has to face the body of his dead father and try to figure out what to do next, and then not even have very many photos of our good times together to look through afterward.
I worry about my parents. I don’t call them enough, so maybe they secretly think I don’t love and appreciate them as much as I do.
I worry about my family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. I hope they know what they mean to me. They probably don’t. It’s probably my fault. But I hope they guess correctly.
I worry about you. Most of you won’t care or notice. But some of you will. If you’re still reading this meandering, self-indulgent post, you’re probably someone who cares. You’re probably someone who might notice when the updates simply stop. Hopefully by design. But maybe not. Maybe one day there just won’t be any more heartbeats. Then, no more posts. And maybe some of you will wonder what happened. Maybe some people will think I quit, or ran out of words.
Maybe some of you will guess correctly that I died, and be frustrated that there may never be a way to know for sure.
I might not die today. I probably won’t, since I’ve never died any of the other days I’ve been alive. But maybe I will. Maybe this is the day the top of the hourglass runs dry. That’s the point, really. We never know.
If I’m out of time, what is it that needs to be said, and to whom?
Is that really worth feeling upset over?
Shouldn’t the things people think about in their final moments be the things we put most of our focus on?
I think so.
I hope this isn’t the last thing I ever write. That they don’t find the plates I left in the sink. The stack of mail on my desk. The unmade bed. The unfinished Pinewood Derby car on the bench downstairs.
The last father-son project. Unfinished, like this life.
We probably don’t wake up one day feeling ready to die—feeling like we got it all right, and accomplished all we set out to do.
Maybe the best we can do is whatever’s in front of us today.
Offering to help.
If I knew this was the last thing I would ever write, I would finish with a note to my son (Love you, kid.):
Thinking about dying is only awesome if you use it as motivation to take nothing for granted. I did many bad things. But I always chose hope, and it has never failed me. I hope you will, too.
I don’t spend most of my life thinking about dying. I promise.
I spend most of it thinking about living.
I spend most of it thinking about living because sometimes people really live.
Be one of them.