Do you ever think about your own mortality?
It always happens in the weeks leading up to a flight. Any flight. But especially a flight to south Florida.
In 1996, ValuJet Flight 592 from Miami to Atlanta crashed in the Everglades, killing all on board. What made this plane crash particularly gruesome was the fact that it took place in a deep-water swamp where sawgrass, alligators, and risk of bacterial infection hindered efforts to recover what little remained of the plane.
Memories of the crash coverage rest dormant in the farthest recesses of my mind, only to surface every couple of years just before our biennial vacation to West Palm Beach. Fortunately for them, all 110 souls on board died instantly upon impact. But what if one or more had lived through the crash only to be marooned in a remote portion of swampland, facing certain death from the elements?
What a horrible way to die.
These are the types of thoughts that invariably creep into my head in the weeks leading up to a flight – usually upon waking in the middle of the night, when the quiet darkness can lead the mind down a dark and twisty path to a place where even the most irrational concepts seem entirely conceivable.
And then I finally board the damn flight and it’s rather uneventful and actually quite boring.
Yet my fear remains. Not of flying, but of death in general.
The thought of dying has not always frightened me. Once upon a time, ensnared in the grip of a debilitating depressive episode, it actually seemed like a welcome respite. Simple relief from the chaos in my head.
I was neither reckless nor suicidal; I merely existed, apathetic to the world around me. In no way living, yet ambivalent toward death, I drifted along from day to day allowing the depression to play its twisted tricks on my mind until I finally broke free of its stronghold with the help of therapy, medication, and sheer will.
Twelve years and infinite amounts of perspective later, however, it is another existence that prohibits me from ever again possessing such indifference toward life. Or death, for that matter.
As a mother, the fear of losing my child is only slightly more agonizing than that of my exiting her life too soon. It’s a scenario in which I can’t help but feel we would both be robbed – her of maternal guidance and the unique bond that exists between mother and child, and me of the privilege of watching her grow and flourish.
I also can’t help but think that such tragedy would not play out in dramatic fashion, but instead by way of something far more sinister and unexpected lurking among the mundane of our day-to-day lives. A drunk driver. A falling tree in a violent storm. Or one of the myriad of terminal illnesses that eat away at both body and soul.
So, I’m making a request. One that should go without saying, but I’m nonetheless putting out there, in writing – not unlike a living will.
Should my life be cut short before Lil’ Bit is fully grown, I ask that someone – be it husband, parents, friend, or even loyal reader – please print the stories told in this blog, bind them, and give them to her.
As she grows, read them to her and encourage her to read them herself, helping her to know me in doing so. To see her life through my eyes. To share in my memories. To hear my voice.
May she then carry my soul in her heart. For that is the gift of writing.