"There were once three brothers who were travelling along a lonely, winding road at twilight —"
People often ask if I’m scared of death, since Atheist don’t believe in an afterlife, and my answer has always been some version of no. After I divorced the idea of eternal damnation, I was quite alright with the idea of death. It was a certainty, and while I didn’t (and still don’t) want it to happen anytime soon to me or those I love, its presence created an odd purpose to my existence. Life has meant everything and nothing at the same time. It is whatever I deem it to be, the legacy I leave behind is my eternal life, and I’ve always labored on the notion that I had plenty of time to carve it.
I was comfortable with the notion that I had time to chip away at my legacy. And then I found that notion teetering on the edge of a bed whose owner looks a whole lot like me and who only made it to 53 before life and death decided to engage in a game of chicken with her existence.
Death never lets us forget that it knows where we are.
We don’t get to collect invisibility cloaks, resurrection stones, or Elder wands. There are no hallows to help us conquer death. There are no disks in our necks or elixirs we can ingest. We can barely conquer life, how grand are our egos that we believe we could ever conquer death?
It will come for us all, with no hesitation. So what do we do until then? What do we do with this one short life? I have asked myself that question time and time again, and even more fervently this past week. Death always lays the groundwork for sadness, fear, and despair when it knocks, even if it’s just opening the door and not taking a soul, but it is us who decides how we tend the soil and reap the harvest that it leaves behind.
It’s up to us to decide if we’ll reap the despair or use the harvest as a catalyst for greatness and allow it to nurture those things we thought we could put off until everything was just right.
So, as the winter melts away and gives way to the new beginnings and challenges of spring, what my friends will you do with this one short life?
Copyright(c)2018 Rayven Holmes
Sixteen years ago I saw my biological mother for what I thought would be the last time. It was a conscious decision I made, and one I've frequently had to defend from “well-meaning” outsiders who didn’t know or even remotely understand the complexities of the relationship between us. Despite the barrage of opinions, I had made peace with the reality that the next time I saw her it would be in an overpriced pine box and I refused to abnegate that peace.
Now I sit the dark corner of a hospital room, as machines beep and tubes dot the landscape that is my mother’s body, and I find myself swimming in the gray matter that is our relationship and the conflict that my previous peace has now brought me to.
I had always assumed, foolishly, that her life would pass unnoticed by me and my children. I’ve worked hard to maintain and build relationships with people who exhibit the qualities I expect in parents and grandparents. Today, though, my children met the woman responsible for my existence. They looked upon the nearly lifeless vessel that housed me for nine months and said “hi” for the first time.
I can justify my decision to live my life as if she didn’t exist. I know exactly why I can’t bring myself to say “hi mom” and take her hand like my grandmother has asked me to do. And while I can, and have, climbed that decision mountain and offered myself up as a sacrifice to the unyielding pain that burns in my chest to prove that I fully support that decision. I can no longer say for certain that it was a good decision.
Yes, it was the right one for me. It is one I would make again. The possibility of what my life would have been if I had made a different choice fills me with more dread than the numbness from nearly two decades of estrangement.
Was my decision a good one? Is any decision ever good or bad? And by whose standards do we judge that?
People are always quick to pass judgment on the merit of our choices these judgments are usually based an individual's happiness in relation to the choice that was made.
What if our choices are neither good nor bad, but a pile of possible feelings that we reach into when it suits our needs?
There are at least half a dozen people who feel strongly that I made a bad choice. Be it my decision to keep the demon that is this relationship caged or to drive here and stare at the void between the two of us. On the flipside, there are at least half a dozen people who believe I’ve made a good choice either way.
Then there’s me. No longer the brash teenager, I'm now a bullheaded adult contemplating my own mortality and what it takes for any of us to be redeemed.
I don’t regret my decision. I don’t even know if I’m sad that my children met her under these circumstances. I’m living in the reality that decisions are neither good nor bad, but instead, they are life’s little purgatories where we wait for the shoe to drop.
And if we're lucky, we don't walk out of those purgatories with regret.
Rayven Holmes Copyright(c) 2018
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