I first experienced death when I was seven. One of my close cousins died, followed by both of my grandmothers in a six-month period. I experienced so much death as a child that I grew numb to death. It wasn’t until I was 15, when a high school friend died that death became hard. I was in such disbelief that it took a few years for me to accept his death.
I carried a heavy heart all week. I learned from a high school friend that our former theater instructor was submitted into hospice. As I read the news, time slowed down. I knew the inevitable, before I even read the word:
“[she] is dying.”
This year has been the best year of my life. I actively made needed changes to my life to balance it and change the energy and direction of my life and career. With so much beauty there was also a lot of tears and hard truths. What brought me to this point were a series of shocking deaths that brought me to a halt. Last year the death of a former co-worker deeply saddened me. He was on location shooting a movie when he died. As much as I love the work I do, the thought that I could die on the job are more likely because of the demands of the industry.
His death made me reassess the direction of my life.
I realized I was working more than I was living which was a catalyst that brought me to focus 2013 on me.
While in pursuit of my goals, June happened. In my an earlier post (Redirection: 7 Lessons From Living Differently) I mentioned that June was a hard month. “[O]ne thing built on another and another, until I reached a moment where I said ‘Enough!’” One of the “things” that led toward “enough” were two shocking deaths. At work I found out via Facebook that one of my friends and colleagues died on set. He was one of the kindest men I’ve known and we worked together a lot. The next week, a friend’s father died exactly one week after she told me he had a fifty percent chance to live. Both deaths weighed heavily on me and brought up feelings from the death that occurred a year earlier. Suddenly the importance of work wasn’t as important as it had been.
Life isn’t about work. I never wanted my life to be about work. But, the demands of work, made my life about work. It’s not all works fault. I didn’t start to fight for my life in the way that I needed until this year. I very much want a successful career, but as I grow older what is important to me changes as I change.
At the end of the day life is about the people you care about and the memories that you make with them.
The concept of an eternal life, not in the biblical sense, but in the mortal sense sounds thrilling. When I was a kid I thought eternal (mortal) life would be great. That’s what I would ask a genie if I ever came across one. But as an adult, when I think about it I don’t think eternal life would make a difference. I want to think that people would strive to live their best lives if they knew they had forever, but what’s motive? Wouldn’t that create the largest amount of procrastinators ever? If you hated your job in your eternal life, knowing that you can live forever would you quit it then? Would you end the bad relationship then? Would you realize your worth and start living your life accordingly?
I feel death and loss exist for us to appreciate the now. I appreciate the life I have because of the deaths that I’ve experienced throughout my life. When I attended my first few funerals I remember hearing stories about the person at the funeral who cried the loudest because they didn’t reconcile differences. There is one at almost every funeral. I’ve seen that story play out too many times. I never understood why people don’t tell each other more often: “I love you.” “I appreciate you.” It saddens me to think that I could die tomorrow and someone from my life may regret that they didn’t tell me what they could have told me when I was alive. I understand that we all have fear. And fear sucks. Vulnerability is hard. But regret is a bitch. You can never take back regret. Once you regret something it never really leaves you. It’s there like a scouts badge. How many badges do you have? I have a handful.
Days after I learned that my instructor was in hospice. I received numerous messages from concerned theater alumni. That night I attended a one-woman show that I assistant directed. Upon the final curtain call the message came through that my theater instructor passed. Her class and theater program were my first taste of theater. The two previous times that I worked in theater, I thought about her and my high school theater experience. I realized that I had come full circle in the moment reflecting on my earliest beginnings with theater to now. Going beyond that reflection to reflecting on the beauty that this year has been. And finally being thankful to have known her and so many wonderful teachers both literal and metaphorical that have brought me to where I am today. We have to experience death and loss to appreciate what we have when we have it.
“The sweet is never as sweet without the sour.” – Vanilla Sky