My husband lost a close friend not long ago. He was only 26 years old. He fell asleep behind the wheel of his car and, like the striking of a match, the story of his time on Earth was stamped with an expiration date. The gate slammed shut mercilessly — locked and sealed for eternity. There was no crossing back to the other side.
Death has a way of unlocking things in all whom are affected — of rattling and shaking those who are left behind back to life. Death takes our hand and whisks us away into a dark forest of mourning so that we can truly see that which is bringing light to our lives. But as excruciating as it is? It makes the living worthwhile.
While the body of those we love turns cold, ours hearts expand and swell in a blistering furnace of grief as we cling to all that once was and will be no more. We are consumed and suffocated by the red hot pain. Some of us feel compelled to try to run from it — to catch our breath and seek relief from the burn of mourning — but, everywhere we go the agonizing swirl of emotions follows. So we cope by straining with all of our might to keep any shred of our loved one alive — like squeezing and savoring every drop from the honeysuckle before summer is gone.
We ache for a farewell embrace and, sometimes, a chance to make amends. We long for one last toast to that inside joke, to one last car ride with that song blasting through the speakers. But life seldom grants it. There is no final exchange of goodbye. There is no “Hey, man. I’m sorry about that one time.” Life doesn’t bargain with what we failed to realize, or finish, or resolve. Rather, it does its job of communicating our fragility to us daily.
Nature is steadfast in its reminder that none of its offerings, young and vibrant, old and feeble, pregnant with unfulfilled dreams or rich with happy endings, are ever guaranteed to be here tomorrow. Even the Earth’s ever-changing seasons serve as a whisper that nothing — no matter how beautiful its garden or landscape once was in full and fragrant bloom — lasts forever. Everything begins and everything expires. Everything cycles through and circles back, but never in the same way again.
Since I was a small child, I have been asked to stare into the formidable face of grief time and again. I’ve locked eyes with it intensely. Yet, with every loss, its elusive finality becomes no less of a mystery. It never gets easier.
But, consider this: What are the odds are that you exist at all?
In 2012, Dr. Ali Binazar decided to navigate such question. Her findings resulted in an infographic for Business Insider which outlines the probability of you and I ever having been conceived. The verdict? So infinitely tiny, it’s almost zero.
How beautifully fascinating it is that your parents ever crossed paths at all. And even more fascinating it is that their bodies came together, and your mother’s egg and your father’s sperm united to form the mingling of cells that would physically manifest as you. Your eyes may be the color of sapphires or a vivid bursting of amber, your legs may be long or short, and your canvas may be ivory, caramel or mahogany, but how surreal it is that your specific combination of genes joined forces to become the vehicle that your streams of consciousness inhabit. And, through that vehicle, you experience the world and all of its painted sunsets, and rainfalls, and songs that swarm you with chills, and conversations that transform you, and tender embraces that comfort you.
How true it is that what you are — whether it stretches on for ten years or nine decades — is an absolute, mind-boggling miracle. Your magic and relevance as an inhabitant of this planet are both astonishing and unfeigned. And oh-so beautifully strange.
When it begins, life locks arms with us. It asks that we dance. And, so we often find ourselves getting lost inside of its effortless seduction — high from every dip, twirl and motion in between. Some of us are seduced by the fruitless search for a thrill that never tires. Some of us are seduced by the exaltations of love, money, power, fame and vanity. Some of us become addicted to to the rush of being admired, validated and desired.How surreal it is that your specific combination of genes joined forces to become the vehicle that your streams of consciousness inhabit. And, through that vehicle, you experience the world and all of its painted sunsets, and rainfalls, and songs that swarm you with chills..
Whatever our pleasure or vice, when death knocks at our door, life on this planet as we have known suddenly unfurls us from its grip — releasing us, almost as though we are a stranger that it never knew at all. And, just like the striking of a match, we are gone. Those who are left behind may search for our faces through the crowd and ache to hear our laughter, but neither are to be found. We are absent from the dance floor.
In the end, life will have its way with you if you let it. And, you won’t get any of your time or money back. But, in this moment – right now – you’re still here. Your feet are still pressed against the dance floor. So, the question is: Are you moving the way you wish to move? Are you moving in a way that is true for you? Are you dancing and swaying to the beat of a drum you love?
Because, one day, your final note will have played. One day, life will have had its wild and wonderful way with you.
Are you having your way with it?