April 2, 2020
Okay, Covid-19. Let me school you. You see, I am 66 years old. I have fewer years ahead of me than I have behind me. I may have anywhere from 12 years (age 78, when my Dad died), to 20 years (age 86, when my Mom died), or 24 years (age 90, when my maternal grandmother died). If I’m really lucky, I could live another 38 years (age 104, when my paternal great-aunt died). Or, I could die today, tomorrow, or next week! But at this moment, I’m still here. I have already lived through many dangers, toils, and strifes. And when I look back over my life’s journey, it matters not to me whether it’s you, Covid-19, or some other scenario that ends my journey.
In 1953, when I was born prematurely at 3 pounds/5 ounces, at 9:21 pm (which also happened to be my maternal grandmother’s address), there was a good chance that I would not survive the 3 months I spent in an incubator. Surviving then was a big deal—the equivalent of today’s miracle babies who enter this world weighing mere ounces.
And for reasons only God knows, I did not succumb to my childhood depression’s demands that I try to commit suicide by half-heartedly slicing at my wrists or hands with scissors or a secreted paring knife. Oh, sure, I was too afraid to even break the skin. But I tried. As a teenager and young adult, I’d take small overdoses of aspirin or antidepressants to kill the pains of life that seemed insurmountable at those times.
It wasn’t until I hit 50 that I finally accepted myself, began to love myself, and began to Live this life I was given. Every obstacle I smashed, every fear I faced, every failure I got over, every joy, every miracle… gave me strength, grit, and grace to face another new day. And not just face it—but embrace it!
Now…. About Death: A lifetime of living through the deaths of family members and friends (great-grandparents, grandparents, a brother, my parents, most of my aunts and uncles, too many cousins, classmates, lovers, and beloved friends—including virtual Facebook friends) has taught me a few things.
First, that no one can outrun Death: we all have an expiration date.
Second, that how we die matters as much as how we live.
My bravest model of how to die is David Bowie’s public exit: that last album, Black Star, with the black liner notes I could barely read and the video of the song Lazarus…. By which Bowie laid out a cosmic map to return to stardust… gave me hope in Death.
Watching my father die over a period of months in a hospital, suspended between consciousness and oblivion… gave me acceptance of Death.
Watching my mother die in my car, on the way to the ER, only to be given one more Lazarus day of life after the attendants carried her into the hospital and brought her back long enough to say the words I’d always longed to hear—I love you—whispered to me in the ICU as she moved the tubes snaking down her throat away from her tongue so she could tell me… showed me grace in Death.
No one knows the hour nor the day that Death will come. But if we live our lives as we are meant to, if we give our hearts as we are blessed to…. Then, we have Lived, and our purpose on this Earth has been fulfilled.
So, come at me, Covid-19, if you must. Just know that I am ready for whatever comes.