We’re all going to die.
It’s a fact.
This fact has sat quietly, patiently, somewhere in the back of my mind until the day I became a mother. I instantly felt directly responsible for the life of another human being.
Since the day I first held my little girl, I have become obsessed with the thought of my own mortality. It never really mattered before. I mean, it did, I know, for my family, my friends. People would miss me and it would be sad but it would be okay. Now that I have Maddie I cannot imagine my life without her and hers without me in it. And I have to face the fact…one day I will not be here.
So what do you do. Knowing that. What do you do? Do you wrap yourself and your family in bubble wrap? Do you try to defy death by tempting fate? Do you avoid the topic of death, dying, and impermanence entirely? I don’t know what you do. But my mind rattles with answers to this question.
Here’s what I do know. Our lives are gifts. To wake up every morning and breathe is a gift. To feel the warmth of the sun on your skin is a gift. To hear the giggles of my amazing girl and to watch her grow these past 18 months is more than I could ask for. Our experiences. The chance to sense. The opportunity to learn. The ability to love and feel love. That’s what it is about.
The stuff. The work. The traffic. The arguments. The worrying. The politics. The bullshit. Well, it’s bullshit.
What is happening right now? I need to remind myself of this so often. Stop. Look. Listen. Notice people’s faces. Smile. Connect. I’m not good at this. But I try to remind myself to be better every day. Put away the phone. Step away from facebook. Call your mom.
My biggest fear is that we don’t get to say goodbye. In life, you will argue with family. You will argue with friends. I will say something to Maddie that is harsh or she will storm out of our house. These outbursts happen. And it’s okay. They don’t really mean much. But to lose someone at any time means your last words could be terse. Your last conversation could be painful and not loving. To me, that is the biggest tragedy. To leave people not feeling loved, worthy, and important. Because those few people you love most that you call family are the people who are most loved, worthy, and important. Mom, Dad, Dave, Maddie, never forget that you are loved, you are worthy of love, and you are important. I love you. I will always love you. Even when the words get in the way.
I ran 5 miles this morning. If I’m being honest, the reason I exercise and eat relatively healthy is equal parts vanity and fear of death. I am focused on keeping my body, mind, and spirit in great shape to continue to experience the world with my loved one’s for as long as I can.
But one day, when I am no longer here, I want Madeleine to know that she was, is, and will always be my heart.
Just in case I don’t get the chance to tell you everything I think and feel on that final day, I want to tell you what I am thinking and feeling at this moment. I love you, Maddie. The day you were born and every day since has been the most wonderful experience. And life is about experiences, isn’t it? There is nothing, no experience by far, that surpasses the experience of being your mother. And because your little eyes are always watching me, I know that I need to be present, be focused, be healthy, be happy, be confident, be grounded, and be loving. I hope that I can teach you to find your own voice, beauty, passions, and vision for an incredible future as I find mine. You are bright, funny, curious, charming, loving, determined, independent, social, thoughtful, and unique. You reveal a new way of seeing the world every time I stop and try to see the world through your eyes. I love getting the chance to experience all of life’s firsts again. The first time you saw a horse you were so mesmerized and delighted. When it trotted past you and down the street your daddy and I ran with the horse just so you could continue smiling and laughing. I am so looking forward to being there for many more of your firsts. One day I won’t be able to hold you, rock you, kiss you, or make you laugh. When I am gone I want you to know that I am still with you. And whenever you need me look up at the sky and say hello. I will be in the sand below your feet. And in the air you breathe. And in the warmth of the sunshine. And in the stars.
You – you alone will have the stars as no one else has them…In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night…You – only you – will have stars that can laugh. – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, El Principito