In a few weeks, my master’s degree will be in my hands. The final internship experience that got me there is etched into my memory forever.
Interning for a hospice agency is not for the faint of heart, let alone working for one. Day in and day out during the greater part of the summer, I was face-to-face with the ultimate reality. On the one hand, I met patients and families that were full of stories, humor, and hope as they faced death head-on, with the patient ready to transition to the other side and the family prepared to live life after. I also met patients full of dissatisfaction and despair, with which I did my part to move them closer to acceptance, even if it was just one step. Still others were patients whose cognition had shut down before their bodies, leaving families grieving the loss of their loved one long before they had actually died.
In all of this, I finally came to grips with an inescapable truth: one way or another, we are all going to die.
There is no ethnicity, religious affiliation, or amount of money that can ever prevent this from happening.
On the surface this sounds hopelessly morbid. It probably is. However, I have derived a certain freedom from accepting this less-than-glamorous revelation. As I have seen death up close, I am no longer afraid of it. I am at peace with knowing that sooner or later, I and everyone I love will have to pay the price for admission into this miraculous thing called life.
What I am afraid of is not living this life to the fullest while I still have it. So, I am making a point to prevent this fear from becoming a reality.
For me, this means laughing more, arguing less, and for goodness’ sake having more FUN.
It means snuggling up with my nephew and singing “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” umpteen times because that won’t be his favorite song forever and I better enjoy it while I can.
It means spending time with established friends, making news ones, and releasing toxic figures from my life-and meaning it.
It means learning new skills and trying new things, even if I fall on my face in the process.
It means speaking up against oppression (speaking of which, if I haven’t made it clear before: Black Lives Matter, Queer Lives Matter, and Immigrants Are NOT The Enemy) and maintaining my principles even if they are not the most popular.
It means making definitive plans to see The Pyramids at Giza, The Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Mecca, The Taj Mahal, and countless other wonders of this world, preferably with my love by my side.
It means making sure that I have plenty of hands to hold around my own death bed, a confirmation that I cultivated family ties and friendships based in a love and respect so deep to the point that they want to see me off.
It means living life authentically while leaving an admirable legacy behind, because while I can’t prevent myself from ultimately leaving this world, I can damn sure prevent the tragedy of living a life full of regret.