On Mortality

Recognition of mortality may appear in several ways.  One may openly acknowledge and contemplate it.  Another may deny, dismiss, or ignore its presence.  An overarching phenomenon occurrent in the previous two scenarios is the presence of either peace or fear.  We all die; this is a irrefutable fact known to all humans.  Unique to each individual is how we die and how each of us wishes to view death and the surrounding issues of mortality.  Peace may be found in spirituality or the simple reconciliation of knowing life ends and the potential belief in the presence or absence of an existence after death.  Fear results both in the presence of certitude and unknowingness.  Though a spiritual teaching may promise life eternal after death, how do we know in sureness what form or presence in which we will exist?  Or rather, if we are entirely unknowing or unsure if there is anything following death, is fear not a rational emotional response?

We pass through our everyday lives in the throes of the myriad of challenges and rewards life affords those privileged to partake.  Many times we drive our proverbial cars on a smooth road, though it be afflicted with numerous turns, diversions, and switchbacks.  Death and mortality are not in the forefronts of our minds until we hit that depression in the pavement, that pothole, or that speed bump that manifests as the telling of a suicide or murder in a local newspaper; the child who died from a several-years-long battle with leukemia; your grandmother’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease; a personal diagnosis or condition that calls you to face your own mortality.  Then mortality appears in the mind as if projected on a movie screen and one is a passive audience member, unable to control the mechanisms of the theater projecting the film.  It is accosting, loud, all-encompassing, impossible to ignore or deny in existence.  The movie plays for some time, but like all movies, it ends, and you exit the theater.  Exiting does not occur in identical ways for each individual.  Some exit in fear.  Some exit in understanding and growth.  Some exit in peace, and some exit in a state of reconciliation.

How we exit is of importance and a determiner of how we approach both future dances with reminders of mortality and our own inevitable death.  Should we continually exit in fear, how poor the quality of life must become.  Life becomes synonymous with fear, and implemented is a continual clock counting down the hours, minutes, seconds, to the ultimate demise.  Should we approach mortality with some form of acceptance and peace, the very fabric of life changes.  Burlap becomes satin and silk.  We are not tripping on cords of hemp, but rather allowing threads to combine and weave in a way pleasant and effortless.  Let us drop the rope, relinquish our battle with mortality, for how much greater purpose can be added to life if we live outside the lines of combat and fear, and instead contemplate the gifts inherent in our given existence.


It has been some time since I have written in this blog, many months to be exact.  I could provide a plethora of probable reasons for not posting, and many may be true, but I do not believe these reasons could stand to be the crux of the issue.  The crux is deceptively simple and cliche – simply, life.  We exist in this world to climb mountains only to fall to cavernous depths and to run marathons, walk marathons, crawl marathons, and to simply never cross the finish line.  Life is about transitions.  We may cocoon like caterpillars in times of self-preservation, or we may awaken to spring with the buzz of a honeybee pollinating flowers.

As I sit here sipping a soy latte and enjoying some fruit, I cannot help but contemplate my dance with life over the last seven or eight months.  I returned to school in January to complete my degree following over a year and a half off taken for medical treatment and care.  I was aware that my life was incomplete, but I was not cognizant of the extent to which much joy was absent in my life.  I still harbored resentment for and contempt of my illness and often focused on the unfairness of it.  Though I knew I was making progress in my education, I still doubted my ability to complete in absolute finality my bachelors degree.  My apathy and stagnancy were interrupted by several monumental forces bringing forth a sea change in how I viewed myself, and also how I perceived my life to be.

In total blindness, I enrolled in a course at Portland State University entitled Women, Writing, and Memoir.  This seemingly inconsequential decision introduced me to one of the most amazing instructors I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  Not only did she reignite my interest in reading and writing, she began me upon a path of self-reflection and discovery.  As a part of the course, I began writing a memoir, which I still am working on to this day.  It has helped me to drop the rope, to let go of the hindrances of my past, the unfairness, the bitterness, and to use my experience and knowledge to enrich my life now.  My mind has begun to retrain itself to live in the present and to allow the present to flow forth with the lack of inhibition found in a waterfall, the rising and falling crescendos of a child’s laughter.  The late Lucy Grealy wrote, “I now knew that joy was a kind of fearlessness, a letting go of expectations that the world should be anything other than what it was” (Autobiography of a Face).

Writing has instilled a certain joy within me and continues to do so, with each drop of ink emitted from the tip of my pen or the chatting clicks of the keys on my keyboard.  But life.  Life continued to pass, and though I had jumped aboard the freight cars, still found myself towards the caboose.  I immersed myself in schoolwork, ardently attempting to finish undergraduate despite my qualms and fears regarding my potential.  And I did.  I finished, with honors.  I had anticipated deriving such satisfaction and pleasure from the moment I finished my last paper, presented my last project, walked out of the classroom door that last time.  The feeling of that moment was elation, disbelief.  And then the world began to spin again.  What was broken open was pieced together again.  My anticipated indelible mark was fading with each passing moment.

I have come to realize that a part of my life has ended, the specifics, the mechanics no longer any clearer than the foam at the dregs of lattes and cappuccinos. I write this as a eulogy to myself and my life, dropping a single rose, petals separating as the blossom falls to the earth where I lay to rest everything I have known myself, my existence to be.  As I sing the words of my eulogy, I commemorate the regrowth of my life.  I have cooked to optimum temperature and am emerging from the incubator far changed.

I no longer often contemplate the unfairness of my illness, nor the ways in which my life and relationships coursed as a result of sickness.  I have both walked and crawled my marathon, and either was effective in its own way, but I have now crossed the finish line only to find myself running another.  And this time, I shall run, and I lace my Nike’s with the knowledge that I am not running alone.  Towards the end of my burgeoning sprint in the last marathon, a man entered my life at a time unexpected.  He satisfied my appetite with curries and pasta primavera and shared my lust for knowledge and the written word.  Without him I would not be alive and well and able to gorge on coffee, though I certainly pale in light of his coffee-drinking abilities.  Yesterday, as we were watching Despicable Me, I fell asleep upon his shoulder for about half of the movie.  When I awoke, hair ruffled and mussed, I felt an overwhelming sense of the gift I have been given and the blessings I have received in him.  So yes, I write this eulogy for a time passed, but with the expectant thirst for what is to come.  Run, walk, crawl.  Whatever it may be, I will not be in solitary company.