“We are all just walking each other home.” — Ram Dass
Oh’ Canada and your insane freezing cold. The other day, my son and I walked to school and avoided frost bites in our face with ski masks and scarves. “You have to embrace the cold, ” the crossing guard said. Very reassuring. Today it was not as cold but we fought our way through tons of snow. This nebulous nature of winter is very pressing and adds to my overall moodiness, anxiety, and sadness. Worries about my seemingly stagnant career bother to the point that not even a lavender oil bath or a massage can make me feel better. Overall fears are gnawing and real to the point that I do not even know if what I am doing here is right and that the decision to move to Canada in the first place was rather rash, impetuous or altogether wrong. There is for some reason this growing feeling and certainty that I made some really dumb decisions in my life.
Thoughts that I have not landed my dream job or have a job at all in this country popped up. I have not bought a house and even my previous relationships seem like things another version of me did. A version saying, “Yeah, sure I understand the serious implications of attaching myself to this person even though alarm bells are ringing. I can make this work though!”
Today, on our way to Kindergarten, we walked through masses of snow and then the strangest thing happened. Joel ran ahead to catch up with his friend and they chatted about a tree house they want to build in spring. I let my thoughts wander; I am thinking a lot these days.
My family in Germany is going through a pretty rough time. There will be a double-funeral next week. One grandfather passed away on Tuesday this week, the other one today and out of the blue, I remembered something a friend of mine told me a long time ago: “I am not scared of death because once I am dead, I don’t feel anything. I am just not here anymore.” When my mother described how her father took his last breaths and what she told him, I started to cry. She simply told him that it is okay for him to leave, that everything is fine, that he is safe and can meet my other grandfather on the way so they can leave together. With these words, he opened his eyes one more time, took three slow breaths and died. My mom and grandmother held his hand which was still warm for a while after. I felt like I stood over a precipice looking down when my mother and father told me that my grandfather passed away. He is not here anymore. And this is somewhat scary to me. Where is he? Just nowhere? Just nothing? It is over? Is he flying on a cloud in heaven as I tell my son he is? Even though it was expected, it is very sad for everyone. My mind is wrapped around death for the last couple of weeks and these cold, gloomy winter days are not helping.
I know death will also happen to me. Hopefully not today or in the next months, but it WILL happen. I have seen many dead people before when I was a Police Officer but when family members die it is so different. Before, I knew that I will die at some point but I was also ignoring the whole thing by not giving it too much attention. When I was in my twenties, I certainly did not think about death. I thought about a career, traveling and such. I subsequently figured that many awesome things happen before I die and that I don’t have to worry about it because it is so far away.
Recently, a friend of mine struggled with cancer which instantly began to challenge my cool-headedness because I related to her. She passed away shortly after being diagnosed and left a 5-year-old son and husband behind. This made me start to grapple with my own mortality. I do not feel invincible as I used to in my twenties. This friend also told me that I should listen to life advice from people in their 80s and 90s because they are staring death in the face for years. About two years ago, I had a conversation with my grandparents about a school assignment I was struggling with. I told them that I just cannot get through some assignment because it is so much work and sometimes wish my life is over so I don’t have to do this stupid work anymore. “Never wish away your life,” my grandfather told me quietly while shaking his head. Back then I struggled to understand and wondered why he got rather upset but now I see what he meant and I am starting to grasp his point. Soak it all up, even the hard things. I am still alive. He is not.
So how can I move forward without freaking out about death and dying? It works for me when I simply reframe things so that I see life instead of death. Barbara Ehrenreich in Natural Causes writes: “You can think of death bitterly or with resignation, as a tragic interruption of your life, and take every possible measure to postpone it. Or, more realistically, you can think of life as an interruption of an eternity of personal nonexistence, and see it as a brief
My family is incredibly strong and I love them. Our close relationship grounds me. They listen, understand and give me an anchor that holds me to the present, that keeps me from floating away on thoughts of an unknown future. Even though my world has changed I am not afraid. I am loved. They are alive.