I talked to a friend online the other day and I said something that I didn’t really understand the truth of until after I saw the words printed in front of me. I told her that I didn’t think I ever really believed I would live this long.
It seems kind of ridiculous to feel that way at 32 years old, but it’s still true. It’s not that I’ve had any physical reason to think I would die young and I never planned on doing the job myself. I just have never been able to imagine being older than my mom.
This summer I turn 33 – the same age my mom was when she took her last breaths. It doesn’t feel right.
I’ve had these feelings – hovering just above consciousness – that my death will hold some sort of poetry. When I was in my early 20s, I was in the hospital for 5 days with pneumonia. On my first night in the ER, they took my chest x-ray and the technician let out an “Oh my God!” I asked her what it was and she told me I had the worst case of pneumonia she’d ever seen.
I was fully convinced that I was never leaving that hospital alive. I knew I was going to die – not because of the technician but because my Aunt Dale died from pneumonia and I was named after her.
I recognized at the time that it was complete illogical, but it just felt meant to be. I was almost disappointed when I walked out of the hospital.
Up until motherhood, I didn’t fear my own death and in fact, I welcomed the thought. So many people in my life have died at a young age. People always have their words about God and peace and a better place. I was angry that I was left to live with the pain. No one should have a special funeral dress at 18 years old.
I thought if death didn’t bring God and peace and a better place, at the very least it would extinguish the pain.
I wasn’t miserable or depressed. The idea of death was just comforting. Morbid as that might have been, it didn’t mean I was suicidal or wore all black or never laughed or didn’t have fun. It simply meant that I was prepared to leave it all behind at any time.
And then my daughter was born and absolutely everything changed. I had some problems after her birth that I won’t go into, but I was convinced it was cancer. It wasn’t. It turned out to be nothing even remotely serious. Three or four years ago I found a lump in my breast. It was small and “unimpressive” (as the surgeon called it), but for a month (from the time I felt the lump until the time it was removed and I received the biopsy results) I was once again convinced I had cancer. It turned out to be simple infection.
The difference between the pneumonia and the after-pregnancy issue/lump in my breast is that with the last two, I no longer welcomed death – I was terrified out of my mind.
These nearly life-long feelings that I am meant to die young have not gone away, but I suppress them now out of fear. They resurface when events, such as my upcoming 33rd birthday, smack me in the face with reminders of my own mortality.