Death is something I think about often. It might be my anxiety disorder, but most days, the thought enters my mind, “Am I dying?” I mean, technically, the answer is always yes. We’re all dying every day. The pandemic makes this that much worse. Add to that my no longer being religious and, therefore, no longer believing what I used to, and you’ve got yourself quite the cocktail of anxiety.
I’m barely beginning to explore how other people view death. It wasn’t something I gave much thought to for most of my life, and I arrogantly thought that anyone not belonging to my religion was without hope when it came to death. See, I thought I had all the answers. That death is temporary; that it’s like sleep—you’re asleep one moment and then awake again the next.
Religion can be exceptionally comforting in that way. I didn’t think about my mortality or what the future entailed. Most belief systems convince you that you never die.
But I don’t believe that anymore. And it’s tough. I feel as if I’ve been robbed of something. The afterlife was always representative of an ideal life. A life in which I was perfectly healthy, I had a home without a mortgage on the beach somewhere, and I could enjoy my life away from the suffocating grasp of capitalism.
I don’t mean to be reductive, but believing in an afterlife is kind of like believing in Santa Claus. It would be fantastic if it were real, but there’s just no evidence to prove it factual. And honestly, it’s hard for me to accept it. It is the realization that there is no perfect life, and that just as so many before me, one day I will cease to exist and my life will be over.
But truth matters to me, and from my research, this is the reality. Living in truth means accepting difficult things that defy what I thought to be true. And I don’t want to be dogmatic about it either; I don’t know 100 percent what will happen when I die. But coming to terms with the finality of life also gives it a beautiful new purpose. It helps me center and be present and appreciate every moment. It helps me remember that I need to tell the people I love that I love them. It helps me be mindful of the impact I have on others and how they feel in my presence.
So while this new understanding of death has been difficult (and will continue to be), I’m ultimately grateful that I have the chance to accept it and grieve it now. That reality will influence everything I do with the rest of this wonderful life that I have. And that is a gift.