I saw someone else die today.
By the tenth or so time, it's no longer traumatic, if not quite routine. And when someone old dies of natural causes, it does takes away from the tragedy. Death is a part of nature, and we have a tendency to accept all natural things as being good, even if that's not really the case.
In the West, we've secluded death into sanitized, hidden crevices where we can avoid looking at it. With the exception of traffic accidents or the evening news, we've made the collective decision to ignore the terminal endpoint that is approaching all of us - admittedly, for understandable reasons.
And yet there are certain benefits to seeing death - which for me, is still an overwhelmingly surreal experience, fundamentally unreal in the sensorium of the moment.
Death is the great focuser of our lives: it forces us to concentrate on what's most important, and it forces us to remember the value of time. Time is something that's so easy to take for granted, and yet time is the very essence of life itself. What is life, other than a series of present moments?
I remembered today what's really important to me. I remembered the value of the people I love and the things I love doing, and I was grateful for that. I was grateful for the fall colours of the leaves I saw through the window of my gym, for my own strength and vitality, and for my own relative youth, even if it is quickly fading.
It's not a form of nihilism to meditate on your own impending annihilation. If anything, it is an offering, a realization of the miracle that is conscious experience, and an appreciation for the time that we have already had.
“We're all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.”
I watched a man die today.
No, I felt a man die today. Felt his pulse give out on me.
It came back, a couple of times, like he was hovering over the line between life and death.
CPR isn't what it looks like in the movies.
Something like this, the deficits of language come to bear. Like trying to capture something that keeps slipping through your fingers. Not possible.
There's a certain banality to death that's utterly surreal, impossible to get down on paper until you actually see it with your own eyes.
And yet: I can't help but think it a privilege to have seen this man pass. It's a sacred thing, the end of life. A man I'd never met before shared something with me - a gift, a remembrance.
Memento Mori: it means: "remember death."
I have a tattoo that means this very thing, a reminder that all of this is going to end, one day. That our most precious commodity is time. That life is too short for fear or holding on to anger, or holding back on love.
This past fall, I made some very bad mistakes. Some things I regret so intensely that it focused all the hate I have inwardly, refracting it like a prism. The hardest part of the past three months has been getting out of bed every day. I have been on the verge of falling apart, looping the past over and over again like a blade.
I don't have that hard of a time forgiving others. Decisions, even those that deeply wound other people, happen for one reason or another.
What I have a hard time with: forgiving myself.
I couldn't sleep last night, until it hit me: regret is a form of anger - a hatred you hold against your past self. And like all forms of hate, the tighter you hold onto it, the more it damages you.
Today, I woke up today for the first time in three months without feeling severely depressed. And when I looked in the mirror, I didn't hate myself.
Thank you, old man.
Thank you for the gift.
people I admire
Bret Easton Ellis