Do you realize that everyone you know will die? Of course you do. All of us know that. But, most of the time, we don’t think about it. We forget about it insofar as it motivates our actions, our interactions with the people in our lives, and the people we meet. If we were wholly cognizant that some of these people were to be gone tomorrow, or next week, wouldn’t it result in some of our behaviours being modified?
We usually have no inkling of when our time will come, or that of our friends or neighbours. When tragedy strikes and we get the bad news, we often react in a drastic way. If we have hates on, we usually stifle them. If we care, we redouble our efforts to connect in ways that might be more useful to the object of our emotion. Even if we don’t have a real link to the person who has died, we may go out of our way to exhibit some form of kindness. We instinctively feel, there, but for the grace of God, go I. Imagining how we would feel in the same situation, we have the urge to do something, anything, to alleviate the pain, the fear, the horror, of the unknown forthcoming.
When the end comes unheralded, suddenly, without warning, it is a shock to the system. Somehow, that person’s passing puts us, ourselves, right in the target zone. The immediacy of something that could happen to anyone, the result of biology or chance, reminds us we are not ready to go. We are chastened by the event.
Attitudes to our final exit vary widely, and certainly evolve over time. When we see some of the reckless behaviour of young people, we have to believe they feel they are immortal. Many out there have the belief that this current “vale of tears” is but a temporary phenomenon, with the best of existence yet to come. My Jewish background and belief system offers no such panacea. We are enjoined to do all we can to get the most out of our current existence.
In my late 80s, I must, of course, accept that I am much closer to the exit scenario than many of the people on this planet. Acceptance is the closest emotion I can discern, having enjoyed a larger slice of life than most.
The people I know have very mixed feelings about the transition we all face. Many are apprehensive. Most of us are happy to do what we can to put off the “evil” day, worried about the experience, and more than reluctant to give up whatever shred of living that we may have in the now, all of our fleshly and mental pleasures, regardless of our pains, potential and real.
What exercises me much more than some of the above is the greediness I feel about engaging with the spirits of all those still around me. Knowing that the time we share is limited by circumstance, more than anything I want to reach out to those souls whose existence I value.
Many of the people I care about have not shared a word with me for decades. My fault, their fault, who knows what were the forces that caused us to drift apart. How strange might they feel about my making an uninvited approach, out of the blue?
If I were to write them a blog like this as a general invitation to reach out and make a contact, some might respond. We all share a common fate. Maybe we also share a sense of the value of our past contacts. Maybe some of you out there are thinking of doing the same thing, reaching out before it is too late? Every week there are some of my contacts that I must erase from my mailing list. So, here I go: how are things for you today? What’s the story? Will we make contact today before the unknown tomorrow comes?
Max Roytenberg is a Vancouver-based poet, writer and blogger. His book Hero in My Own Eyes: Tripping a Life Fantastic is available from Amazon and other online booksellers.