I’ve been faced with death a lot recently. The death of friends, of family and my own sense of mortality have come to visit like unwanted guests, and over stayed their welcome like the same. In addition to the sadness they bring, they remind me that eventually my time will come and, if I’m like most, it will come without warning.
I deal with death in my own way, as I’m sure you do as well. While I would have gladly traded my recent experiences for better ones, they have gifted me a few insights.
What you lose in death is potential. All of the potential experiences, discussions and relationships that only exist tomorrow.
What you gain in life are memories. Memories of everything you’ve done, everyone you have met and every place you have been.
If you are very lucky, when your time comes, you have gained much more than you are losing.
But I think is the most profound part of death is that when you are gone, you leave a hole in the world. The memories you leave with others are shadows, footprints in the world that show who you were. But they aren’t YOU. You are no longer in the world.
What you take with you are all of the private memories you never shared. All of the quiet moments of solitude when you were alone, both happy and sad, which can be some of the most important moments of your life. You can’t leave those behind, you can’t leave shadows or footprints, because no one else was there. No one can see what you saw, feel what you felt and even known that moment was meaningful. Those private moments are a hole within a hole, something no one else would ever know was there.
We all have those private memories, but they are not lost, you just take them with you. Many of the memories you leave behind and the potential you lose are felt by others, but those private moments get packed into your bag for your final, solitary trip. And that’s a good thing, those moments help make us who we are.
I imagine all of that private history lost to us every time we lose someone special. All of those private memories that pass away with the person who owned them. I wonder how our lives might be different if they were left behind.
Still, I like to believe that they provide some comfort on your final journey. Like a worn, familiar knapsack full of your favorite clothes, the weight on your shoulder is reassuring as you take those final steps.