What Won't Protect You

This will start off in a grim place - mortality and death grim.

Stick with me, though. I think we’ll get to a not-so-grim, still equally real place. But we have to start here. So, let’s begin.

Last week, a family friend died suddenly in his sleep. He was not someone you would ever think of dying, my father said as we drove to the funeral.

Since this friend’s death, I’ve had moments where I’ve been nearly throttled with fear of my parents’ death. I was in the kitchen eating a spoonful of mid-afternoon peanut butter when one of these moments arrived. My heart beat ticked up. I ate faster.

But then, as happens now and again, insight dropped in, this time, in two parts:

This fear is trying to protect you from being blindsided when they do die.

And then, the whopper of a second part: Your fear will not protect you.

Death will blindside me, upend me, level me no matter what. I cannot be protected from that. Not to mention the fact that when I’m living in fear, I am terrifically unpleasant - on edge, utterly uncreative, without clear focus.

I finished my spoonful of peanut butter and downed a half-glass of water. I left the kitchen lighter. If fear is a false armor and we are to live unprotected, then my choice is to go all in on the business of living with those I care for.

Show up. Love so that we live with no “if only…” Sleep enough. Greet people with the unchecked euphoria that dogs do. Be generous. Make art. Make rooms better for being in them.

We are human. But another word for us is mortals, which means we die. Nothing protects us from the death of others. But the thing that may come closest is living - really living - with them.

The Lightning Notes is funded by kind donors. If something here strikes you, I'd be grateful if you'd consider donating. Click to Donate!