I’ve always had a very polarizing relationship with death. Not quite fearful, not quite accepting, but more of an odd impasse where neither is welcomed nor shunned.
In truth, the whole idea of death and all that it entails makes me rather uncomfortable, in that awkward foot-in-mouth sort of way. Like dramaedy dinner scenes or a joke with no laughs.
I’m mortified with the idea of what my death could or would do to my family and friends. The funeral process and whatever tears or petty squabbles may come from that. The dividing of my worldly possessions – mostly junk and knickknacks at this stage – or the awkwardness that comes from conversations with those deep in mourning in the immediate aftermath.
Fill your boots
I truly hope none of that awaits those I leave behind. If anything good can come from my death – as far away as I hope it is – it be that the entire affair be lighthearted and free of the cringe-worthy or tear-jerking. Laugh at my painfully dry jokes, rant about how impossibly difficult I was, and if you do cry, cry about what has been, instead of what could have been. And if you must say a prayer don’t waste it on me, but fill your boots if it helps you heal.
Truthfully, I’ve been lucky with staving off death so far in my short life. My family is largely intact, friends are (relatively) healthy, and my list of personal in memoriams have been brief.
But the certainties in life are death and taxes, and I know I’ll be ironing out black suits more often in the coming years. It is sadly unavoidable.
Our Herald family recently said goodbye to one of our own, a wonderful woman whose warmth, compassion and humour impacted everyone from the briefest of acquaintances to the dearest of friends. You couldn’t do with a finer send-off, surrounded by loved ones and well-wishers that lined a seaside church to pay homage to one for the good books. We should all be so lucky.
It is in these times of long farewells that my dodgy relationship with death comes rearing its cloaked and no doubt bony head.
I think of the trivial nonsense that sets me off, the rants of these columns that add up to brittle words on paper, and it’s truly the comedy in the tragedy of life that so many of us waste so much time on so little.
It gets me thinking of what matters, the memories and moments, the now instead of the when. We hear so often about grabbing life by the horns, seizing the day, living life as if there were no tomorrow. And while that may work well for Medicare ads or waiting room posters, there is some wisdom behind the Hallmark-like marketing.
Have a story or two
All the home fixtures, piles of possessions and bucket-list plans will be meaningless when we all inevitably meet that final crossroads. Moments, though, are everlasting. They are what those we leave behind reflect on when the homes are empty, cars are rusted and trinkets have been trashed.
It is what I like to think I have created, and will continue to do so from this day until the last one. I may not die a wealthy man, but I’ll have a story or two. Which leads me to this column’s closer, which came to me as if by a cloud splitting epiphany from the big man himself – in a house of the holy no less.
I heard a priest echo the words of a Canadian hard rocker, providing the closest proof of a divine miracle in my lifetime.
“We’re here for a good time, not a long time,” the holy man said.
Words to live by. Carve that on my tombstone.
Dillon Collins, The Herald’s Staff Writer, can be reached by emailing [email protected]