“The first breath is the beginning of death.” — Anon.
He has danced for me since I can remember, intriguing, enchanting, tantalizing. I have forsaken those I love for him at times. I have completely forgotten who I was, so enthralled in the beauty of his mysterious darkness. I have desired him more than anything or anyone else, begging him to come closer, dreaming of what it would be like to have him engulf me.
I caught my first glimpse of him as a child. I overheard my parents talking about my sitter’s death and couldn’t help but feel like she was the lucky one. My sitter was the happiest person I had ever known, always smiling and enjoying life. And, obviously if she had succumbed to his charms, he must be amazingly persuasive.
I danced with him a bit after that, swallowing pills and begging him to take me. But he didn’t want a child. Not yet. However, his presence lingered in my life from that day forward. He gently hovered over everything, always tempting, always dreamy, always seeming to say “I am better than Life could ever be.”
At times, Life pursued me and I loved her thoroughly, as best I could. Love and laughter danced through my world, just as beautiful as the darkness of Death, but somehow, never as enthralling. Moments and memories played across time, as my desire for him grew. The thought of him tainted everything in my world, and I found peace in his shadows. Fantasizing about him became my safe place, my escape from the bright, penetrating light that revealed the harshness of my reality.
At one point, I threw myself at him again, screaming “Please! Take me away from this world.” I downed another bottle of pills and prayed that my babies would be okay without me.
But it was still not to be. Life chose me, nursing me back to health, drawing me slowly into her warmth and I finally realized I was needed here, my children needed me in their life. I swore off Death, vowing I would stay faithful to Life this time, that I would see my children grow up.
And like any scorned lover, Death decided to pursue me. It seems we all want what we cannot have and he was no different. I had chosen Life, fully and openly. I was finally clear on where I stood.
And then I heard the words, “Systemic Scleroderma… 55% heart function… very rare for someone to make it past ten years”. Everything blurred together in my mind as the doctor confirmed my worst fears.
Why? After all these years of chasing him?
I had finally chosen HER.
I was finally happy with Life.
His intrusion was heartbreaking and unbelievably unwelcome. But there he was, staring me in the face and daring me to deny him.
I began making plans. I wrote my will, created a trust. I ensured that my children would be taken care of when his dance engulfed me. I wrote letters detailing all the things about their lives that I may miss. I poured my heart out about the big moments and how important it was that they appreciate each and every one.
I looked Death square in the eye and accepted that he would always be a part of me. Eventually, he would take me for that never-ending ride. But the longer I stared into his dark eyes, the more I realized that he was not the lover I wanted to embrace.
I chose Life.
I knew that I could not and would not leave her behind. Not this time. I had fought too hard to create love and light and laughter. I had built Life and I swore that no matter how much I had to kick and punch and scream, I would never go with him willingly again.
So I kicked and punched and screamed. For two years, I went from doctor to doctor, looking for answers. I tried pill after pill, getting up to 21 per day at one point, always treating symptoms instead of the cause. I got weaker, sleeping for 12-15 hours a day, but I continued to deny him full access.
And then, I found someone to fight alongside me. I found a doctor who was not interested in helping me enjoy the “end of life” but rather wanted to ensure that I had a long and healthy one. We poured through medical records together, tying together pieces until it formed a pattern that made sense. And then we treated the cause.
I danced with him. And what a dance it was. I danced for a long time and with as much passion as a person can. I loved him and I longed for him in many moments. It would have been easier to allow him to engulf me. But each time he tried to claim me, I looked into his eyes and I realized that my answer was still NO.
I held on to Life with everything I had and she twirled me right out of his clutches like a whirlwind, shooing Death out the door. She reassured me that I was so thoroughly worth it. Our dance started again, fresh and new. It was a sweet, gentle dance that slowly brought me back to the passion and desire for her that I had all those years before. She brought hope and peace and happiness that I didn’t realize were missing. Life gave me back time with my children, the ability to make more memories with the people I love. Life gave me joy and gratitude. Life said “slow down and enjoy.” Life became my only lover and I am head over heels for her.
And you? My beautiful, amazing friend… If you are reading this, I promise that taking the time to embrace her today and every day will be so worth it. She will treat you with love in a raw, reckless, incredible, unbelievable way. We don’t have to go quietly into the darkness. We don’t have to go without ever truly knowing and loving Life. Life wants us madly, desperately, passionately. And we can live like that, every single day.
Of course, Death will eventually claim us, but if we love Life while we are here, our dance will live on forever.
So we get to decide… How do we want to be remembered? Do we want to be kind? Passionate? Gentle? Loving?
Life, in all her glory, allows us the opportunity to choreograph a dance that will continue long after we have succumbed to Death. So dance with her, love her, and never, ever forget to appreciate her. She is the only one you have.
Stop being afraid of her. Embrace her with a passion and an urgency that you didn’t know you could. Put your phone away. Talk to the ones you love, often and with appreciation. Write your book. Be kind. Dance through mud puddles. Hold the door for someone. Smile every opportunity you get. Travel far and stay as long as possible. Say please and thank you. Wear an evening gown in the creek. Give all the hugs you can. Never be afraid to compliment people. Kiss long and often. Learn about yourself and love yourself. Climb trees and read books. Speak boldly. Don’t accept shit. Love gently and passionately and however you feel it in the moment. Tell people you love them, as much as you possibly can. Laugh as loud and often as you can. Make a call when someone crosses your mind. Be happy for other people, and celebrate with them. Go on adventures. Hell, make everything an adventure. Dance. Dance all the time. Love her passionately.
No, Life will never be the perfect lover. But honestly, she really doesn’t have to be perfect to be the best thing that ever happened to you.