Aren't these words the greatest promise you could ever make to those that have come and gone before us? To not let the richness and exuberance of your life slip away in vain? I think it is a notable, worthy commitment.
Mom, I'm thinking about you today and what you'd wish for me in this life. What would you have done differently had you known you'd depart so soon? Were there things you would have said that you withheld? Would you have loved differently? Taken more trips? Chosen a different career? What would you have created, inspired, started, experienced?
And what would all of our deceased loved ones wish for us from afar? If they could pay one last visit, give us one last contribution, what words of advice might they impart over a cup of coffee?
I think about my cousin Angelo who passed away at 42 years old on Oct. 11, 2011. I visited him days before he passed while he was at Lenox Hill hospital in Upper East Side of Manhattan. I'll never forget the look in his eyes as I held his hand at his bedside.
Several weeks before that, when he just learned of his terminal diagnosis, we stood on a rooftop of his Brooklyn Heights apartment, overlooking the city. He confided in me, sharing through trembling tears, that he was afraid. But he was so grateful to have received and experienced the love of his long time partner, Michael. He was overcome with the beauty of sharing his soul with another for so long. Of feeling known, understood, and loved. When we leave this earth, I believe it's those connections that never dissipate. They transcend time and generations. Long after breath leaves our bodies, the sense of love still remains. And now I'll interrupt this story with a Mumford interjection: Where you invest your love, you invest your life. Yes, I just threw in a Mumford quote right der.
But the point is, I'll never forget the expression on Angelo's face as he overlooked the beauty of Manhattan while reflecting on his greatest love - terrified to face death but overcome with gratitude for what it afforded him.
Death has been on my mind more than ever lately. But not in a morbid way. It has lost its sense of morbidity since you passed six years ago, Mom. Instead, it has ushered in seasons, waves, of supreme awakening. A blindfold has been removed, probing me to seek out certain truths, relentlessly ask certain questions like, "What do you really take with you after you breathe your last breath?" What will stand the test of time, what is your life's legacy, what are the memories you will leave with others? No, now death comes as more of a curious, fascination and appreciation and I often wonder how, we, the living, can make sense of it all.
This is not to say that I'm fearless or ready to go at any moment - this is merely an account of a transformation that has occurred within me due to this personal experience, through losing you. Sometimes it reveals itself in subtle intuitions and other times, it rears its head as a tumultuous, magnetic force resulting in serious life changes. Nonetheless, it has changed me. And I've learned to listen. Before your death, I was comfortably numb. There's a reason that Pink Floyd song has a cult like following, as my brother Kyle has pointed out to me. It resonates with the masses. I never want to feel that comfortable and stagnant again. I want to feel alllllll the feelings, from the heights of revelry to the depths of despair. The greater the pain and acceptance of it - when I give in to letting it shape me for the better - the greater the growth. The greater the awakening and unveiling.
"So go out and live real good and I promise you'll get beat up real hard. But, in a little while after you're dead, you'll be rotted away anyway. It's not gonna matter if you have a few scars. It will matter if you didn't live." - Rich Mullins
Death has given me life. It has saved me. And for that, I respect it, appreciate it, and never underestimate it's severity.
It has brought me to my knees, shattered old ways of being, and caused me to rebuild my life with intention.
Mom, at the very least, I promise you I will live.