Illusion of Immortality


Trying to sketch out what it is I’m feeling at the moment. Thirty-six minutes ago, 10:20 a.m., a friend, who is part of my adopted family, texted me. He told me his brother in law, who is also a friend, had a heart attack last night. He’s fine–at the moment. The doctors found the blockage and put in a stint. I’ve been texting back and forth with my friend and mutual friends. Everyone is on an extreme emotional rollercoaster. I can imagine. I’m here at work agitated, afraid, saddened, anxious–one vibrating ball of nerves and psychosis. The last thirty-six minutes have dragged slowly like a block of stone scratching and cutting the ground with each pull. I’m off at five. Why can’t it be five now so I can check in on everyone?

I know the monkey minded emotions bouncing from one tree to the next is mostly fueled by my own mortality staring me in the face eyeball to eyeball. I went through a similar thing watching my father die, but that took on a death of god mythos because of how we view our fathers. I had read something similar in Frank Herbert’s Dune when he wrote that nothing debilitates the child’s mind more than when they realize their father is human and frail. I would add that it’s a sobering thing when you watch a friend go through a life threatening event or actually dying. You understand you will die. Death happens to everyone–but that is in the back of the mind. Consciously, there is an unintentional illusion of immortality. With the death of a friend the illusion of immortality is dissipated. The blanket is ripped away and your naked bones are exposed.

So what now?

We can pray. We can breathe. We can hope. We want mercy to be shown to the friend involved. We want the mercy for ourselves because we want that extra time to be real with them so we can do and speak love. Funny thing is there is never enough time. Never enough words. When the last breath whistles out there is a closet full of things we still need to say. At the end those of us who survived this day hope we did and said enough.

What do we do when our mortality is hanging over our head? I suppose one can stay perpetually curled in a corner grieving until it’s our time to go. That is one option, and it’s an option many take because death is scary. It’s scary because we don’t know what goes beyond that. Sure we’ve heard the stories in our different religious institutions, and they help us cope, but the reality is we don’t know. But that ignorance can also motivate us to really enjoy life, to love without fear, forgive generously, and to soak ourselves and others in grace. Anger is a time waster, and drama is spinning the wheels in the mud.

My instant thought was, “Oh, I need to be more disciplined in my diet. I’ve been a little lax.” That’s a good thing to do. We should all pay attention to what we put in our bodies, but our health alone does not make us a quality person. Jesus said that what defiles a person is all the malice, lust, jealousy, etc. that comes out of our heart. The change necessary is one of the heart and how we see the world. Not to ensure us a place in God’s renewed heaven and earth, but to bring a taste of renewal here and now. Death let’s us know changes are happeing whether we want them to or not, but the change is easier when we participate.

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