An Open Letter About Death- Because we all get one.
As a preface: I’m sitting here writing this as a mostly healthy 33 year old woman. I am not depressed, sad, angry or otherwise unstable beyond my normal state of crazy. I am lucky that I am not suffering from an illness, not even a cold on this particular day. I am happy, and I am loved. I have no insight to when my kick in the bucket will be, but if life has taught me anything, it’s that we always think we have more time than we really do. This is also all just another girl’s opinion on the internet, so take it or leave it. I’m no pro.
And I’m sitting here writing this because it’s been heavy on my heart, and lingering in my mind. Death. Not in a scary way, or in a dark way – but more-so in a curious way with a million and one unanswered questions about. It is also to be noted this is not about religion, which God is better or Heaven and which is right or anything in between. It’s about how we each are going to die, just like each of us poops – but no one really wants to talk about either.
We have all lost someone we love, and if you’re a small percentage that hasn’t, it’s coming one day. It hurts, both emotionally and physically and basically super sucks. Like really bad. Then, we all put on this brave face and keep marching forward because ya know, life goes on. Jesus welcomed another angel, and boom – that’s a wrap. But isn’t that doing us all a dis-service? It’s okay to be sad, and it’s okay to cry. And it’s okay to do both of these things (among whatever your cooping mechanism may be…just stay away from drugs, kids!) as long as you need to. Everything isn’t always okay, but some how, time shows us otherwise. We all hurt differently, deal differently, and have different experiences. It’s not a pissing contest on who has lost the most, how they were lost or what a tragedy it was. Because it all just isn’t a compartmentalized piece of pie. Unless it’s poop pie, because that also sounds really terrible. But still not as terrible as losing someone you love, even if you ate the whole damn thing.
Then, aren’t we all left with conversations we wish we could have had with that person? One more phone call, one more hug. Yep. Pretty sure that’s a universal truth. If John Green taught me anything it’s we can never love someone as much as we miss them.
We do miss them. And that part will never go away. But here’s the cool part: The Important Stuff Stays. It lingers with us. It’s a part of us. We are no longer the same without them, and that’s okay too. Because would you really want to be?
One of my best friends was murdered in her own home several years ago. Shot by a neighbor and killed. Without a reason. She was gone in the blink of an eye. The week of her funeral I sat down and planned my own, and sent a slightly eye-brow raising email to several close friends putting them in charge of my ridiculous requests. I was paranoid and bitter. I cried alone in the shower – not because I didn’t have an amazing support system – but because I cope alone. My biggest weakness is showing weakness – so behind closed doors I go. Silly that I’m writing this after saying that, huh? But it’s true, and it’s something I’m really going to work on in my years to come. This is actually the first time I may have even publicly talked about it beyond a Facebook status.
I adopted her dog Sadie, and she’s the craziest dog I’ve ever seen in my life. And beyond her quirks and annoyances she brings to the table, she brings me so much comfort and joy and can almost feel my friend in this crazy ball of fur. She doesn’t leave my side very often, unless you’re waving some food in front of her face. I trip over her constantly, and she sleep on my head most nights. She’s seriously ridiculous.
I also have a bag of things from her house that was set aside for me – and I just went through it – this year. Almost 4 years it’s taken me to pull the zipper back and see what was even inside. And there was a handwritten note to me on my wedding day from her. It’s one of my most treasured possessions.
I am forever thankful that my darling friend took 30 minutes to write this in a notebook, and even more so it somehow landed in my hands even after her passing. It brings me both comfort, love and loss – but words that were alive from a friend that no longer was.
What would your words be? What would you write down to leave – to put on the internet, in an envelope, in a bottle floating the ocean or in a time capsule. What is the most important thing about your legacy and what is your story?
What do I want my friends and family to know when I die? That I was happy. I scratched a lot of things off my bucket list. That I truly lived as fully as I could and my success was never measured on my credit score, how much money I had in the bank, the size my pants were or what my investment portfolio looked like. I do not regret the amount of mid-day naps I took, how many nail holes I’ve put in my walls, the time I spent naming the birds that lived in my birdhouses, or all of the me-time I so thoroughly enjoyed. I loved deeply, danced between the black and white of right and wrong probably too much – I got to make a living creating art and fulfilling my heart. I had a ton of adventures and ridiculous stories. I got to see as much as I could during my time here, and I didn’t do anything I didn’t want to do – no matter how many ‘shoulds’ were thrown at me. I believed in love, in being kind to one another – and that is enough for my soul, where-ever it should rest. I’m sure I’m somewhere cool and fun after it’s all said and done. Promise. And that’s that.
What would your message be? What do you want your children to know, your spouse, your parents? How would you fill in the blank? It’s such a simple sentence, and a tough one to finish.
Before I die, I want to: __________________________________________________
Then comes a funeral. How do you envision that going down? A traditional one, a party? It is truly more for the living than it is for the dead, but you can still have a little say in it I think. Especially if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to even think about it before your day comes. Here’s mine:
Closed casket. I have very unmanageable hair and no hairstylist of mine needs to be in charge of that hot mess. No sad music please – I didn’t listen to it in real life, and it’s not a playlist I would ever choose. No Freebird. Lots of classic 80s, The Beatles and maybe a little Jack Johnson. The Dirty Dancing soundtrack will get you bonus points. Tell funny stories and how I was a real asshole sometimes. Be kind to my husband and make sure someone is checking on him – especially to make sure he’s fed and knows how to work the washing machine. I would like to be cremated and spread around to your favorite most beautiful places – my husband is currently freaked out by that, so if he’s still around let him make that choice. If he’s hardheaded, my tombstone can be funny. It can even have a cuss word on it. I also want a unicorn on it or a blue bird. Probably a rainbow. That’s my compromise there. (Seriously – How self-absorbed do I sound right now? Pretty much like a douche, but it doesn’t matter. It’s the truth and honest and this is my blog that I own and I can write whatever I want to. You’re here reading it at your own free will, so whatever. Like it, hate it – it’s cool.)
The point of all of this is – death shouldn’t be a hush-hush. It doesn’t have to leave as many unanswered questions behind. We can all have this conversation now, we can write a note for our nearest and dearest to treasure always. We can live more fully, and stop worrying about how that tattoo is going to look when we are old – because WE ALL LOOK NOT-SO-GREAT WHEN WE ARE OLD. And isn’t getting to grow old so fortunate? We can think about the things that matter, the time that we have, and how it’s okay to grieve for those we miss. It’s about all the sad country songs about tragedy and lost loves, our favorite foods and favorite people – the things that bring us comfort, and how important our relationships with each other are.
It’s a blog about death, but really – it’s a blog about life. Make it awesome and be an awesome person to remember. Like Kid President – because he’s super awesome.