When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to die. I know what you’re thinking: What in the actual heck?! Okay, let’s back up here. You see, when I was around 4- or 5-years-old, I didn’t know how TVs worked. For some reason, the only explanation that made sense to me was that when people died, TV-land was where they inevitably ended up (“heaven,” so to speak). Thus, for a short (very short) period of time, I was accepting of death- excited even. Because I couldn’t wait to be on TV.
That was the last time I ever had any good feelings about death.
(But just in case God is reading my meagre blog, please know, I do not want to die. I am not volunteering. DON’T TAKE ME!)
Ever since I could remember, I’ve always had a subconscious, gripping fear around the idea of death (particularly, losing the most fundamental people in my life that I care deeply for). I know it’s not an uncommon fear, but I didn’t grow up with a lot of loss in my life, so I’m slightly mystified as to where this early perturbation around death stemmed from.
My sometimes-consuming anxiety about death reared its head in different ways throughout my young life; ways I never understood until much later. For instance, when I was a kid, I was very attached to my maternal grandmother. My grandmother was the only person I ever wanted to tuck me into bed at night. I had a fairly compulsive nightly ritual that consisted of me saying “bye” to her in various ways and her reciprocating it directly back to me: See you later, Good night, Bye-bye. All the bases had to be covered. Slightly OCD, I realize. If she ever forgot the composition of these parting expressions, I would feel completely unhinged until I could get her to utter it back to me in perfect order. This would go on for a few minutes some nights with me shouting down the hall from my bed (as she was already halfway into the kitchen): “See you later, Good night, BYE-BYE!!!” And bless her heart, sometimes she would get the order wrong or not say it in quick succession enough that I’d need her to completely repeat it back to me before I allowed myself to fall asleep.
I always just chalked this stuff up to me being a bit batty at that age (and sure, most of it was total infantile lunacy) but now I recognize it as a sign of my deep-rooted unease around losing my grandmother. My little heart couldn’t stand the thought of losing her in the middle of the night and not having had the chance to properly say goodbye. So, I guess I figured out a way to cope with that visceral fear of mine. I drove her nuts. Every night, without fail, she would concede to my ridiculous demands; albeit, sometimes with a slight hint of annoyance which signaled that I’d gone too far off the edge.
Like most people, I’ve always had trouble saying goodbye. My issue was more closely related to the idea of lacking control and the preoccupation of that perfect goodbye. This didn’t necessarily always involve death; it could have been a mere break-up. I was always fixated on having that tidy, resolved closure. If I was never going to see you again, I wanted those last moments to be the thing that lived on forever in our memories. But life doesn’t work in perfect segments. Sometimes we get closure, but the reality is most times we have to create that ending ourselves. It took me a long time to learn how to do that. Much of it is about mentally letting go, succumbing to a new existence, and reconciling the knowledge of what was with the acceptance of what no longer is.
How do you feel about goodbyes or letting go? Do you accept it easily or do you have a hard time with it?
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