I’ve always been fearful of death. I remember one day as a young girl, maybe seven years old, the realization that I would die struck me like a bolt. The warmth drained from my face and a wave of panic coursed through my body. The wake of that distressing moment never fully receded.
I’m going to die.
We all know we will die one day. It’s common knowledge. But whenever I’d pause to soak that realization in, it would overwhelm me. My fear felt so intense that I’d have to banish the thought from my mind as quickly as possible. Distract myself any way I could. It became a tennis match in my mind. There’s the fear, bat it away, there it is again, bat it away. I became used to this morbid awareness.
Then my daughter died.
Aisley died during childbirth and from that point on I could no longer run from death. I was intimately affected by death, more so than I ever had been in my life. It changed my world. It took my daughter. In a sense it became my daughter. I could never turn away from it again.
I didn’t know how to cope with this. I didn’t know where to run. How could I distract myself when the most important girl to me in the world was dead? Death held her. I wanted my daughter back. I wanted her so desperately. For a period of time I welcomed death because that’s where she was. My fear of it disappeared. Go ahead take me too.
To have a relationship with Aisley was to have a relationship with death.
It has been almost two years since my daughter passed. She would be turning two in August. Yes, death still sits beside me, however our relationship has changed. I gave birth to Aisley’s brother six months ago and being a mother to my baby boy has triggered a resurgence of anxiety. That fear accompanying death is back and it has intensified. It sits in the back of my mind chiming in no matter how much I try to muffle it.
He will die too. He won’t wake up. Better check that he’s breathing…
Beyond my son I have a constant awareness that I could lose anyone I love at any moment. My husband leaves for work and I can’t shake the worry he’ll die in an accident. My brother doesn’t call back right away and I fear he’s dead. I think of my parents dying one day and get sick to my stomach.
I imagine my life ending and my heart starts to pound. I am acutely alert to the sensations in my body to a degree I’ve never experienced before. I feel obsessive. Too aware. What is that numb feeling? Why do I feel my heart beating?
I can’t die yet. What would happen to my baby? He can’t grow up without me. I have to be here for him…
This has become my new normal. I live with my companions Grief and Death. How can I accept the presence of these un-welcomed guests and still find joy? I want to savor this life for despite all I’ve been through it is a beautiful one. How do I loosen this fearful grip?
Full acceptance still eludes me but I’m walking toward it. I’m searching for that place where I can accept death as I accept birth. I miss my daughter tremendously but somehow I’m still here…alive. More importantly I need to be the role model my son needs me to be. I want to shine a light on the dark shadows and show him there can be beauty beneath. I want him to know he doesn’t need to be afraid but I need to believe it myself first.
Can I work toward feeding love more than I feed my fears? Is there a benefit to this sharp awareness that everything ends? Everything is finite but isn’t that why it’s so precious?
After all, isn’t the fear of loss part of loving someone?
I remind myself that nature is cyclical. Seasons change, plants wither yet beauty – life – always springs anew. Perhaps death isn’t to be feared or even focused on. Love is where I’ll try to rest my mind.