It didn’t happen when I turned 30 or 40, like I expected.
It happened this year, my 42nd. I began to wrestle with my mortality in more than an academic sense.
It started with the unexplained illness and eventual death of Rachel Held Evans, which hit me hard. I felt a heaviness in my body and soul that was new for me. I can’t explain exactly why. I admired her work, but I did not know her personally. I think my reaction was a soup of knowing that she was putting so much good out into the world, and yet she was physically gone. That she was younger than me. That she left behind a baby and a preschooler who will have to learn about their mom through others’ memories.
Around the same time that Rachel Held Evans contracted her illness, a high school classmate of mine lost her toddler suddenly, also without a clear medical diagnosis. Every day my classmate posts a picture or video of her curious, rosy-cheeked daughter on social media. Every day I look and I “like” what she has shared. I’m sure this child would have been – likely already was – smart and feisty like her mama. I am grateful to my classmate for inviting her friends into her grief process, and it socks me in the gut daily.
And then, in August, I walked that thin line myself between being here among the living or being a (hopefully) blessed memory. I was run over by an SUV while crossing a busy downtown street on foot. I was pretty gruesome to look at, and I had a couple of internal injuries as well. A few inches in one direction or another, and I would have been on the other side of that thin line. For weeks I fought off the absurd notion that I was living in an alternate dimension and that in another, I had been those few inches forward or backward. Four months later, I still think nightly about my first month home from the hospital – about how every movement took effort, about how I couldn’t find a position to sleep in because I had on open wound on my face and a goose egg on the back of my head, about how I had to cull stories about car accidents or death from my podcast playlist because they were so triggering.
2019 slopped a healthy dollop of reality onto my plate. And yet, facing my mortality through others’ experiences and my own has strengthened my resolve. I want to put as much good out into the world as I can. I want to notice all that is life-giving. I want to be here, really here, while I yet breathe.
I hope you’ll join me.