Really, do you want to live forever? I think we imagine we do because thinking of death seems so awful. And our society in the last few generations has been spared all the routine deaths that used to surround everyone before antibiotics, vaccines, life saving techniques. We are unused to death, it seems unnatural. I was startled awhile ago to learn about Anne Bradstreet’s letter to her husband on the coming birth of their third child. Anne Brandstreet is considered the first woman poet of America, who came as a Puritan in 1630. What startled me about this letter was the content. She asked him to please find a kind and loving woman to marry after she died in childbirth, so her children would be cared for and loved. Wow. Women traditionally wrote these letters to their husbands because so very many women died in childbirth. Childhood death was common – more children died than lived. We think now that a parent shouldn’t outlive their child, but that used to be the norm. Generally we have been so insulated from death that it may seem foreign, unreal.
But of course somewhere within ourselves, we know we’re going to die – we do, we know this. Still, we panic when we learn we have cancer, or our loved one has an inoperable tumor, our best friend is in a car accident. But think about it. What if we never died? Do you know what never dies?
Cancer. That’s why it kills us. It just lives and divides, lives and divides. Chemo the second time is less effective than the first, because the cancer cells figure out ways to inactivate or eliminate the drug from their cells. They know how to live forever. Until they kill their host. Living forever is not healthy for living beings.
I was just reading a review of an X-Man movie and the director, James Mangold, was reflecting on Wolverine’s immortality: “What is it like to feel a prisoner in a life you cannot escape? You accumulate pain and loss, and keep that with you as you keep going.” Can you imagine knowing your mother-in-law for eternity? (OK, I’m kidding here, I’m a M-I-L too). Can you imagine being paralyzed for eternity? Can you imagine living in pain, or remembering all the pains and traumas and hurts and broken dreams FOREVER? Living with dementia FOREVER? There couldn’t be any children, because the earth couldn’t hold all of us. We would become so tired of ourselves, so stale, so world weary. Imagine the hell of just listening to Congress forever. Imagine knowing that there would never be release, there would never be an ending. I find that frightening and I wouldn’t want that for myself or my loved ones, even though the grief of their passing is deep and continuing. Dying underscores how precious life is. I know that when that death sentence comes, you’d don’t want it to be you. I KNOW THAT WELL. But. Maybe living well is more important than living long. It was for me.