Maybe it's because these are my last months of being 39 and then, I'll be, well, over-the-hill.
Maybe it's because a month ago, my father-in-law passed away.
Maybe it's because this movie is coming out.
Maybe it's because for the first time, in a long time, my mortality is present in a way it hasn't been.
I suppose your teens and 20's are a time for being invincible. The world isn't a place to be feared...it's a place to be lived and quite frankly, to live with reckless abandon. Even though things aren't perfect, your parents and grandparents are probably alive. If you get sick, you bounce back. The only health "test" I had administered was a yearly pap and mostly, that was just awkward. There was no thought of whether there would be a result to be concerned about.
Into my 30's, I'd hear of freak scenarios. A group of teenagers that drank too much and were thrown from a car. A child with a rare form of cancer. A parent who died too soon. But thankfully, none of these situations came close to home.
Every once in a while, I'd enter into some philosophical dialogue with my young professional comrades about what happens when you die. Does it hurt? Where do you go? How do you want to go out? If you go to Heaven, do you look the same as when you passed away on earth or can you pick your age? Are you married to the same person? What happens if you were married multiple times? Are your pets waiting for you? Do you have to enter into a waiting period before you enter the pearly gates? Do you come back as a frog or a tree?
The challenge, I suppose...is that no one knows. Anyone who tells you what happens post this life doesn't really know because they've never died. And so, many of us, cling to our faith. We create images, ideas, stories, concepts that soothe us and help us to feel better. But the truth is, we don't know. And we simply have to trust.
And so last night, I started to cry thinking about the gravity of the concept of my own mortality. I mean really...you don't walk around thinking that at any moment you can die...you walk around, for the most part, taking your life for granted...that's how you get through the day.
You go to sleep, certain that you'll wake up. You put your head under water at a swimming pool, trusting that when you come up for air, it will be there. You start your car and drive at high speeds not worried that the brakes will fail or someone who's intoxicated will hit you. You live your life.
But the truth is...it's all temporary....it's all extremely fragile...and it's all going away....and we don't know when. That's a tough concept to wrap my heart and mind around.
And then, I came up on this quote by one of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury from "Fareinheit 451."
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.
It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
So, I guess the real question is...what have I touched?