This I believe, that I am going to die, and the focus of this belief is not so much on timing as on inevitability. Not simply knowing, but rather believing in this reality has positively impacted my life. It made me care more deeply and treat my neighbor well.
Believing my mortality is not just a jaded theme in someone else’s novel was a difficult awakening. I cannot quite pinpoint its genesis, because it was a tiered process rather than one “eureka” moment. Maybe it first surfaced with the death of my beloved grandmother. She had raised me, and when she passed away in Italy, I was on the other side of the world unable to fly to her side because I was nine months pregnant. My belief continued its climb when I joined the rollercoaster ride of a dear friend fighting breast cancer. Tasting her anguish and confusion, but also witnessing her courage and determination, made me feel like a shadow carved off the fabric of time. I had a lot to reconsider.
Since then, this belief has taken over, urging me to be present in my life and that of others, to make a positive difference because I have such a limited time in which to do so. It also led me to perceive the essence of life as that of “just” being. But what a brimming “just” that is! And this shift in awareness redefined my contentment. What if I am here “just” to marvel; to experience a storm going through me; to reach for my husband’s hand, to see my son grow up, or to make my kitty purr; why not? It feels so soothing.
Before, I was missing the big picture. To accomplish, to achieve, to produce and to “just” be: that is where I strive to find balance today. I am more eager to listen now, to look and relate, to help and share. At the same time, I am as much ready to absorb and “just” breathe. My passion is making my days bloom, so that their results will outlast me, and my purpose is the privilege to pass along the good I have received from others.
It may be argued that my belief doesn’t paint enough landscape in which to live the material, and that is a real disadvantage in today’s entropy. What, then, do I make of it? Not any apocalyptic message for sure! Why then, advocate for a full embrace, almost a celebration of human mortality? Well, since I am to die in the end, the only escape from this incredible twist in life’s plot might be this epiphany. My own death is not a mere literary theme; believing that has ironically allowed me to realign my actions and tame my anxiety. This I believe, and now I can give my own mortality the respects it commands, both as my only certainty and for its incomparable bonding power to make me one with others.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.