This I Believe

malcolm - fountain, Colorado
Entered on August 14, 2007

Dear This I Believe,

I have been confronted by the mystery of death seemingly since the day I was born. My earliest recollections are of concern and confusion over my own mortality, and the issue has stayed with me throughout my life. In fact, the uncertainty of death and its implications have loomed over my psyche like a persistent shadow.

Biblical wisdom answers questions about death, for many, and helps to explain the meaning of life, but for me, the bible asked as many questions as it answered. As a first grade student at Holy Redeemer School in Flint, Michigan, I remember my intense dismay. I was taught that earth was a test, a proving ground of sorts, a penalty for sin committed before I was born. My body would die, and my soul would live on forever. If I followed the teachings correctly, I would get into a place called heaven. If not, my lot would be a place called hell.

I was told about faith but I could not make the necessary leap. I became distraught at five years old. I remember vividly the unrest, anxiety, and depression. The beliefs presented to me seemed too easy and contrived, nothing more than human rationale intended to explain what no one really knew for sure. Death for me became the ultimate mystery, and life, the ultimate dilemma. Why bother, if we all die anyway?

A school chum passed away quite unexpectedly. I can still feel the hollow pang. The experience reinforced my apathy. I had difficulty attaching myself emotionally to anyone or anything. My relationships became shallow, my goals and my ambitions weak and ineffective. I passed through my adolescence like a misguided tumbleweed. I got by, and I continued on much the same course well into adulthood.

I wrote a poem I was proud of in seventh grade. I wrote a self-esteem building short story in college. I carried these two accomplishments with me like dormant salvation. In time, I began to write more and more, to frequently set my thoughts and ideas to print. Writing saved my life. It became my cathartic outlet. The mystery of death has not gone away, but I have found something more important to think about, a passion, a reason to be. This very piece is testament to my transformation, and I thank God.

Yes, God. You see, I have become more understanding, more open minded. Why not God, whatever that interpretation may be? I respect those with differing beliefs, and I thank my god of great fortune. The one who helped me realize why I am here. Writing builds a legacy. It makes sense. It leaves a footprint.

I have written a novel and started a second. I write poetry, a local newspaper column, e-mail letters to friends, family, and coworkers, I submit to sites like NPR, and I blog every chance I get. The mystery of death is written in life for me. This I believe.