Trigger warning: This post contains an extensive discussion on the topic of being terminally ill and death.
My posts never seem to lighten up, the same will hold true for this one. But I hope to throw some light into my next one, so please do bear with me.
I have attended so many funerals I have no idea if I could ever count them. Between knowing the deceased and all of the time I’ve spent being a ghost in the cemetery, I’ve seen countless. One thing they hold in common is the way the deceased seems to end up over romanticized. I know the purpose, to put those who knew them at ease, to paint a final lasting image of the better parts of them. I get it, I do, and I appreciated it when standing at the funeral of my friend who chose to end his life before the whole classroom of us. They spoke of him so kindly, despite the tremendous amount of agony he caused.
But a thought can’t help but creep up on me.
What will they say about me?
I’ve known for a long time, that I wasn’t supposed to make it. That time and time again it was ‘my last’ health struggle. That has painted many relationships in my life. I feel as if being close to me is guaranteed to hurt far more than it is worth in happiness. Though those around me go to all sorts of lengths to persuade me to believe otherwise, it’s a shadow that lingers.
So spending many nights among the dead, hands laced through the cold blades of grass watered by the many tears of those left incomplete by death’s hand, I wondered. What could I do to make the things to be said at my inevitable funeral, true? How could I become a person impossible to over romanticize because I truly did that much good?
Though I try not to think on it much, the ticking of my clock grows louder each passing day. I am nothing special, we all have our expiration dates. We all should aim to live life as if today is the only guarantee and even then, all of today may not be granted.
But it’s hard to do good when you’re assumed to be the bad guy all the time. Because I fall somewhere among the gray of morality, people don’t think I’ve changed. As if they’re waiting for me to return to the life of dangerous delinquency I left behind, they say my clean up is simply an act. So maybe being remembered as a young man who was too good to over romanticize may be out of my reach. But I’m still going to try. Even if I don’t do it the classical way, even if the best thing I’m known as is being that friend of questionable morals who enacted revenge for those I loved, I need to create a memory of myself.
Because if I died today, I know what they’d say.
The person giving the parting speech would look out to a crowd of maybe six people, maybe. They’d wonder who I could have been, to be important to so few. They’d say the same bravado, that I was a kind young man who was taken by illness too soon, that I had great lovely dreams or whatever. They’d send me off with some form of religious commentary, and like that, I’d fade away. Not a single flower left at my grave after a year’s time.
That is, if my family even bothered to give me a funeral.
That thought doesn’t sit well with me, that I’ve been on this Earth for two decades and yet perhaps six people would attend my funeral. Not that number really matters, but it speaks volumes when it comes to the good I’ve left in the world. The biggest way we live on is through the core of others. So before I go, I need to make sure to touch the fiery hearts of enough people that when I’m gone, they’ll be able to light lanterns with my flame and send them into the sky with the stars.
It brings me solace knowing I’ll live on in this blog, too. That the struggles I dare not tell most about will be here for those who care when I’m gone. I am endlessly thankful I can leave these parts of me behind. Because as long as someone can come on here and see my words and maybe, just maybe, feel less alone, my flame can reach them too.
I really do try not to think on it, not because I fear death, but I deeply fear the pain it will cause. My significant other, my best friend, my family, all those who I talk to on occasion. Some of them have even gotten close to me without knowing of my illness, that every ‘close call’ brings me a little closer. I feel as if I have betrayed them, not disclosing the pain knowing me could bring. I would tell them, but things change when I tell people.
When I turned my life around, I vowed to not seclude myself. That I wouldn’t go out of this world, having not touched the heart of another. There are many things I wish I hadn’t done, things I wish I hadn’t chosen to spend my time on. But now I do everything I can to spend that wisely, because I can’t do anything about the past. The future isn’t a guarantee, tonight isn’t even, so every moment I take one at a time.
I do hope that you’re not like me, but if you happen to be, it’s okay to be afraid. I am scared witless on the topic. But please do promise me, dear reader, that if your clock is like mine, you won’t let fear steal your time.
Life is really, truly, too short.
Over romanticized personas have their place, but I dare you, no matter who you are, to make it impossible to do. Be the best person so that your eulogy writes itself. Love so fiercely that the loss of you will be so universally felt that your heart will transcend time.
Though I fear hurting those who care about me when I die, I fear hurting no one, more.
It only hurts when you lose something you loved.
So, ponder this, dear reader: What will they say about you?