Making Friends With Death

Do not stand at my grave and weep,

I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,

I am not there; I did not die.

– Mary Elizabeth Frye

If you asked anybody, Death wouldn’t be a very pleasant topic to talk about, much less think about. It’s not something someone in their mid-twenties would be worried about. But for the past few weeks, I was.

Before heading to Japan, I’ve been doing a lot of research and was struck at the possibility that I am going there at the risk of my own life (Not that it couldn’t happen while I’m here, but it was the first time feeling like the prospect of ‘death’ is right smack in my face).
At first, I tried to deny any possibility of it. But then, my mind started to launch into a series of ‘solutions’, thinking I could cheat death. I guess that’s the most natural reaction that anyone would make under such circumstances.

But there are no ‘solutions’ if Death was coming.

I thought about giving up and not going there. But that thought just unleashed another set of existential questions – What if I stayed here knowing I’ll be relatively safe from all natural disasters but lived jaded for the rest of my life, having never fulfilled my quest for knowledge and adventure for whatever that is beyond this small island? Maybe, just maybe, if you were meant to die at 20, you would die at 20, metaphorically if not literally.

There were so many possibilities and the uncertainty filled me with fear and anxiety.

For a few days, I was struggling with myself until one day, just out of the blue, I gained illumination.

More than the fear of dying, I was afraid of staying constant like this for the rest of my life – of only getting to know the world through nothing but a screen or a novel, of not having the experience of experience itself despite having an opportunity being presented to me. As of right now, with the way I am right now, I cannot live with that.

But I think, even above all that, maybe what there is to do isn’t about finding solutions to extend your life or “cheat death”. Rather, to ask yourself if you’ve did everything you possibly can with whatever time this life has given you to say thanks to the people who matter in your life, to go forth and do what it is you’ve always wanted to do before life takes it all away, to be grateful to the people who has worked so hard in providing you enough in this life, to remind them from time to time that they hold a place incredibly dear to your heart.

Just yesterday, I was walking home with my parents after dinner, and I told them that if something were to happen to me someday, I wanted them to know that this life they have given me, this life they have provided for me, is more than enough. I am thankful they have been there for me and if possible, I’d like to grow and become someone they can depend on before I die. I hope that this life will bless me enough so I’d be able to go and come back safely and become a firm pillar of support for them. My parents looked at me like I was about to lose my mind and told me that I was being over-dramatic. But was I? I could be in a car accident tomorrow and remember I didn’t get to say these words to them in those last few dying moments.

I think I’ll still be terrified at the exact moment when I know I’m dying. And I know people will still think I’m dumb enough to go there, knowing I could die at any moment. To be honest, some days, I chide myself for being stupid as well until I remember just what I’m going there for. But right now, what I can do is make Death a friend, so I may, not just learn to appreciate Life even more, but to also determine how I should live my life and where I want to go with my life from now on. And that is to live, to grow, to experience, to discover, to explore, to challenge, to learn and to share.

This is what I can do for myself right now.

—-

Just a short story I found on the Internet that I can relate to a lot now:

Recently I overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together. They had announced her departure and standing near the security gate, they hugged and he said, “I love you. I wish you enough.” She in turn said, “Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Daddy.”

They kissed and she left. He walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, “Did you ever say goodbye to someone knowing it would be forever?”

“Yes, I have,” I replied. Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Dad had done for me. Recognizing that his days were limited, I took the time to tell him face to face how much he meant to me.

So I knew what this man experiencing.

“Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever goodbye?” I asked.

“I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is, the next trip back would be for my funeral,” he said.

“When you were saying goodbye I heard you say, “I wish you enough.” May I ask what that means?”

He began to smile. “That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.” He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more.”When we said ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them,” he continued and then turning toward me he shared the following as if he
were reciting it from memory.

“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much
bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish enough “Hello’s” to get you through the final “Goodbye.”

He then began to sob and walked away.

——

So I wish you enough.

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2 thoughts on “Making Friends With Death

  1. president says:

    That story is so sad :'(

    I’ve been living by the belief that in life there is one certainty: death, as it has always been the universal end of all things living. That certainty has at times given me the courage to make decisions knowing that it is a destination unavoidable no matter what my choices are. Haha, I promise it’s a lot more uplifting than it sounds (‘cos I remember sharing this belief with a few people who told me I was being morbid), since it’s about recognising that you’re alive and the time is now.

    • insanelysaneee says:

      I think I know what you mean. And I think it’s a good belief to live by. somehow when i had finally come to terms with the fact that I’m going to die, I feel like I finally have the courage to live now. Be it good or bad, I know at least I don’t live with regrets. Seems like I’m really heading for buddha enlightenment at the rate I’m going. lol!

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