I get it now.
I’ve been somewhat indifferent to death for years and it’s taken me nearly 42 of them to understand why. It’s not because I’m cold-hearted, unemotional or uncomfortable with it. I shed tears like a normal person and feel hurt swelling in my heart like a balloon about to burst. Perhaps just like you do.
The death of a loved one throws your own mortality right in your face. Remember when you were a kid and nothing could touch you? And traces of that youthful invincibility sprinkled your 20s? Then once in your 30s, minor aches and pains of the body and mind distract, but they may not be enough to stop you in your tracks. Once your 40s come along, big changes make themselves known- and it’s not just your body and mind.
Your kids- if you have any- are going through their tumultuous lives, dragging you along, almost blind-sided. All the while, your parents are standing at death’s doorstep, waiting to get in. Then there you are, wedged in the middle; stuck somewhere between a young, volatile life waiting to give birth to a shit ton of mistakes, and a long life lived, lessons learned- ready for that final journey.
When everyone around me is crying over losing a loved one, I’m stoic. I take grief in random strides to nowhere. I’m unsure when to hug, when to listen, if and when to cry in the presence of others, and I struggle to find just the right words.
And I can thank none other than the Watchtower Society for a job well done in raising me with their lies. The resurrection was a sure thing, you see. I never cried at funerals or when I learned of someone’s passing; I was going to see them again. Not in heaven and nowhere in hell. I was going to see them again right here on earth as if I’d just seen them yesterday.
The deceased would rise from their tombs as soon as Jesus bellowed: “wake up!” A scene from The Stepford Wives plays out as they rise with perfect skin, teeth, hair and health; everything in proper working order, happy as a clam, just waiting to stroke god’s egomaniacal cock.
Beloved animals not included, they were never promised the gift of a resurrection. Grief takes over me almost as instantaneous as a car crash when it comes to furry four-leggeds. I see a dead squirrel and I get teary-eyed. If I have to send my pups over the rainbow bridge, I lose my ever-loving mind. I clean dead humans at a nursing home… and I feel next to nothing.
Please tell me why a benevolent god would create people and animals then not gift them both with the same hope? And don’t lay that “people are more evolved than animals” bullshit because I’ve seen some pretty fucking stupid humans. There are smarter dogs out there. I have two of them.
Ron and I recently lost a mother and no I don’t really want to talk about it, but thank you. I only want to be with him to grieve, laugh, cry and have you understand: if you see me and I’m a little off, there’s a reason.
Death didn’t come for my mother. I’m still not sure how I’d handle that since I’m not welcome in my immediate family’s life. Would I cry? Shrug? Go to the funeral at the Kingdom Hall to hear all the resurrection-in-paradise drivel or would I say goodbye in my own way? I have no idea. I guess I’ll know when the time comes.
The only thing I do know is that Ron is my person.
Sometimes, when I’m rubbing the veins on his soft hands I think: I’m going to die. I am actually going to die. And he is going to die. We won’t be together anymore. All my thoughts, feelings… everything that makes me the only me to ever walk this earth, is going to vanish one day.
Then I wonder: how will I die? How will he die? Will it be scary? Will we be lucky enough to go together? What does it feel like? Should I be scared? Will I simply fall asleep? Will I be ready and accept it gracefully? How do animals feel when they die? What happens afterward?
Morbid, I know. I don’t have answers, obviously, and no one does until it happens. My upbringing spoon fed beliefs about death that I can no longer hold as my own and I don’t think I ever really did.
I just know and feel, in the marrow of these borrowed, old bones, that my existence has a limit; and it’s a fucked up thought for me. For some, it’s no big whoop: “You die and maybe go to heaven, maybe you’re reincarnated or maybe nothing happens. It doesn’t hurt; it just is.” For me it’s a loaded question, with no answer, tucked inside a huge bible-based lie.
There was this resurrection, you see; I’d get to see people I loved again- in perfect health, at the perfect age and with the most perfect god-fearing mind. We’d slow-motion run towards each other, tears sprinting down our cheeks, surrounded by lush plants, tropical trees, flowers blooming, lions canoodling with sheep and ripe fruits and vegetables as far as the eye can see. Then we’d get to live forever and ever and ever and ever in paradisiac conditions, right here on the earth that humans have spent centuries bastardizing.
Well, I don’t believe that nonsense now. Not because it isn’t a nice idea- it is. But I can no longer believe anything that was hand delivered via a-real-life-honest-to-goodness-mind-controlling cult.
All I know is this: time with my person is limited and who knows what will happen tomorrow? I can’t say “I love you” enough. And even if I’ll see him later today, it won’t stop me from saying “I miss you.” I can’t hug him enough, cuddle him enough, play enough cribbage games with him, rub the veins on his hands enough or stare at his face long enough to memorize the little wrinkles hugging the cartilage by his ear. (There are three, by the way; and they curve around his ear perfectly. They’re adorable).
I do all this and I wonder: how much time together do we have left? Will I ever get my paradise?
“Your paradise is what you make it”… blah, blah, blah. Spare me. I’ve heard it. And it’s a nice thought, thank you. But you see, I was promised a real one; not a metaphorical utopia. A real paradise. I’m afraid of death because I was taught I would never die. Life forever in a paradise on earth, with my own pet lion and a never-ending supply of food, family, fun and most important… time.
I know the real truth now. That resurrection-in-paradise shit is boohockey. It’s a nice story but I don’t believe a word of it. I understand now that I won’t see my Grandma, my Bartok, Moron or Squints again. I won’t see my nephew, my sister-in-law or some of my closest friends ever again.
I won’t see my mother-in-law again.
I won’t be able to swing by for a cup of coffee and knit while she putters around on her laptop, cursing the day Trump was born. She won’t be sending me random messages, mocking Christian right-wing nuts denouncing vegan meat because the ingredients change your DNA, preventing you from being born-again. She won’t show me again and again how to make pumpkin whoopie pies for Ronnie or send me a random vegetarian recipe she found; not because she liked it, but because she knew I would.
I won’t be able to call her and kvetch about my own mother ignoring me, while I live a mere 30 minutes away and she refuses to see me because her god says NO. My mom-in-law was my mom. She was everybody’s mom.
And here I sit with the knowledge that I won’t see her or talk to her again. What sucks is her being gone and still not quite being able to feel it; and not being able to say or do the right thing.
So thanks again Watchtower for fucking me out of feeling something that’s apparently normal. Fuck you and the self-righteous chariot you rode in on.
How much time do I have to keep counting Ronnie’s wrinkles?