Death taught me how to live. Thirteen consecutive years of seeing my old Aunt Tony at family reunions ended abruptly with the news of her passing.
One hundred and four years of life were displayed proudly on a black and white slideshow for the entire family to see. My second cousin cried the type of tears shed not from knowing that something tragic has occurred, but from actually feeling sad. Incapable of cleaning her own room, the eleven year old still knew enough to recognize that this was a woman who had truly lived. She just knew it.
If I had died the next day, would fifty loved ones gather to watch my slideshow? Would I even have a slideshow?
Such thoughts led my baffled mind to an old exchange in which I had asked my mother about her childhood. Living in four different states and two countries had still not given her enough material to fulfill my request. After Aunt Tony’s death, I toyed with the possibility that perhaps the experiences were there, they were just impossible to relay to some one who had not lived them. What answers would I give my own children?
I have eaten eel. I have bought an “I Love New York” shirt, surfed, laughed, and cried. I have visited Ripley’s Believe it or Not and I have burned my finger on a flimsy Hanukkah candle after spending an entire day sliding down a mountain on a stubborn snowboard. Fond memories fill my heart, and new possibilities fill my future. Each day is a new slide, each slide is a new experience, and each experience is a new chance to someday try and explain “that one time I….”
Two summers ago I stood at the bottom of a huge metal monster, waiting for it to spin out of control and send two of my friends crashing to their death. I ticked off the ways the roller coaster could kill them on one hand. If their car wasn’t sent flying off the track into the lake below, it would surely get stuck upside down. Then the blood would rush to their heads, and they would die. Or, they could hit their heads on a metal beam, and die.
Now, I believe in a completely different philosophy. Death is an unavoidable end, but life is a flexible mold. Life is not about listing off experiences, it is about living them. My new train of thought leads me to searching for ways I can live as opposed to counting ways I can die. Those ways can not be counted on one hand. Those ways are endless.
I believe in living life to its fullest. Name a place, and I will have seen it. Name a food, and I will have tasted it. Name a fear, and I will have conquered it. All the huge monsters in life are adventures in disguise. You may come eventually come plummeting down, but first you must always go up.
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