Remembering that I’m going to be dead at some point is usually something I don’t plan. I don’t have an appointment set in my calendar that pops up with a 20-year-away reminder: MEETING: DEATH. “Oh, shoot, right. I have to do that eventually. Good thing I put it in my calendar. Almost forgot!” It doesn’t cross my mind much, but when it does it’s in weird semi-sadistic ways. For instance, I was walking along (not on) a very rush hour-ish road one night and saw this guy in a black leather jacket jay-sprint, not walk, across four lanes of traffic right in front of a roaring bus, and I just went into my head and visualized him getting hit and dragged two blocks, his jacket being the only thing that remained intact. Whoah, bad brain. But then I thought, “hmm, I could have been that guy and BANG, gone. Or even while I’m walking the ensuing tangled mess of crashing and flipping cars would hurl the back end of someone’s sedan at me.” All of these little death-to-me scenarios that sometimes entertain my mind always have one result: I’m poundcake.
I won’t lie, I’ve cried over the thought that I will be “no more” at some point. I’ve cried many times as a kid, too young to know that it’s the typical ‘glass that’s half full or half empty’ situation. I guess, I never think about death being like an exciting surprise I get to open one morning when I’m scratched off the big man’s list.
When I was with my grandmother as she passed away, I surprisingly witnessed it as an amazing experience. My mom and I watched her move from a total bed-ridden state – her mind already gone, she was simply a body slowly letting go – to sitting up in bed marveling at someone in the corner of her room, her eyes twinkling with so much life, the way they did when we gave her a crystal ornament each birthday decades ago. It was grandpa there. It had to have been. It’s what she’d been waiting 30 years for. We had brought in an old timey CD to play for her those nights, and the beat to Bing Crosby’s voice had her feet, which she had had no control over, tapping away like they did when she used to show my sister and I her “moves.” She held a teddy bear and we held her. She was never happier.
Death and I are really tight now, homeys from way back. He and I cross paths in the cemeteries I explore with friends, but we respect each other. I don’t mess with him and he doesn’t mess with me. I already gave him shit for the whole cancer thing and he took off, so I think we’re good for awhile. And really, if he shows up I’ll be fine. My grandmother put her trust in him.
But, today it wasn’t my mortality I was realizing – I realized my immortality.
What! How does that work?
I was on the Skytrain heading to see my dad before he drives down south where the sun is visible and I was thinking to myself “Hey, I’m really happy right now.” It was a little me-party I was having in my head, really feeling it for the genuine and complete moment it was, just pure “nice”. It was a pretty good day I’d had. Earlier, I had partook in a luxury watch store’s media party with my friend, Jenn, was given a big bag of swag (my first swag ever, if you don’t count birthday goodie bags), on my way to the train station I leaped to open a door for a woman with a stroller carrying twins, and then I chatted with an elderly woman who told me she had gone all her life without seeing twins until that day – to which I had this really strong feeling of empathy for her in that moment. She’s going to tell so many people.
I was sitting with my swag bag on the Skytrain and looking at the streets and buildings of people flipping by as I passed on a bridge, caught my smile in the window with my silly Cowichan “tea cozy” hat pulled low over my eyebrows, and said, “hmm, my mind is prompting me for the obligatory ‘worry about an earthquake striking while I’m up here speeding along, hurtling me into the water where I could die at least 52 different ways’”. A silly fear, but a fear I deal with. Yet, today something new is coming through the worrying mind murkiness.
I epiphanied that if I die, there’s no way this inner monologue is going to switch off. It’s just too damn… there. My body’s gonna go for sure, totally gone, but thinking about everything tonight, I know I’m going to have this forever, the ability to humour myself by the people I encounter and the things I see, and better yet, the things I make up. It was a moment where I felt I could be locked up in solitary confinement and I’d be okay. I have enough really pleasant memories, astounding situations, I feel the love others have of me, and hey, I can make better movies that Spielberg can, and these are far more advanced than 3D.
There’s an episode of BBC’s Planet Earth that showed the floor of a jungle. Ferns would shoot up, cutting the light off to the vegetation on the floor. It would be overtaken by another fern, and its plant matter would be reused into the soil. This worked on every scale with every species in that jungle. Everything leaves behind some residue when it apparently ends, nothing on this planet just completely zaps right out of existence. No, Death does not own Star Trek weapons. So, the essence of this moment for me is that, if a 747 were to drop on my head or my Skytrain splashes down into a megashark’s jaws, my body will definitely be mash potatoed, but this thinking and feeling that I hold with me all day every day since I was born, I’m going to have that forever.
I’ve been with myself for 30 years and have just now realized that I’m in it for the longest haul of all time and I’m very happy with that. I had always felt robbed that I wouldn’t get to see what happens on this planet a thousand years from now. But maybe this is a good thing, that when my body dies I’m not anchored to just exploring Earth, I can Wall-E all over the universe, still making better movies than Spielberg, even if he’s up there with me. Thank God for imagination.