16 November 2007

I've Got Some 'Splainin To Do

I've been thinking about something deep lately and I need to get it off my small cup-sized chest. I watched a PBS special (dear God - she watched public TV!) called The Undertaking, following the family funeral home business of writer, poet, and undertaker, Thomas Lynch. See, I have this morbid fascination of all things associated with death, probably because it scares the bejeezus out of me. I have panic/anxiety attacks regarding death and I've had these panic attacks since childhood. I distinctly remember the first time I realized that I, too, would die, that it wasn't just an event reserved for my step-great-grandmother. I lay in bed, hyperventilating, knowing that I would die and there was nothing I could do to change that fact. The idea of infinity was a notion I couldn't rap my head around. I was lost, just a useless child-speck in this massive universe - a universe that had it in for me. I rushed into the living room, flung myself on my father's lap, clutched his neck, and wailed, "I don't want to die!" He and my mom must have been flabbergasted, confused, and terribly, terribly sad.

See, I hear all these people telling me about "having the sex-talk with the kids." They tell me that telling your kid about sex is so hard it's just easier to hand them a book or brochure or have them talk to their doctor. I don't believe that. Sex can be the most beautiful act given to us humans to fulfill with the ones we love. There's nothing bad in explaining sex to our children - as long as you're honest. What I fear is the moment when Bubba or Miss-Miss or J-man realize what death is and that it will someday come to them, me, and Ty-man. I fear the question, "What happens after you die?" Having to tell them that I don't know twists my gut. Having to admit to them that, as an adult, I still wake up at night, clutching my stomach and waking up Ty-man to still my panic attacks. I want to be able to tell them most definitely that the afterlife is streets paved with gold, a mansion for each of us, and face-time with God, but I can't buy into that. Why? No one has ever come back to tell us what the afterlife is like, if there even is an afterlife. Either there is a Heaven that is so wonderful that no one wants to leave, not even long enough to tell us that it's there, or death causes your soul, your essence, to be winked out of existence, gone forever, never to exist again. I can't tell my children that there is a possibility that their sweet, wonderful selves, all of their dreams, desires, their souls, may not exist in any form or fashion once they are gone. I don't even want to think that. I want to believe that we will all be reunited once we are gone. I can't stand not knowing and realizing that, someday, one or all of my children will hit me in the chest with the same panic attack I gave my parents. To think that one day, one of my children may have to sign the paper that gives the funeral home permission to send my remains to a crematorium, that one or all of them will have to scatter me across the sea, that they will shed tears and miss me, that doesn't comfort me at all, but makes me incredibly sad for them. Sad that I will finally have my answer and will be unable to give it to them.

I don't know if we're going to a better place or no place at all. I don't know what this so-called "transition" will be like for any of us, whether it will be peaceful or violent. What I do know is that I will be there to hug my children when a loved one passes, when the anxiety hits, when the panic swells. I will be there with late-night television, a funny movie, a bowl of ice cream, and support. We may each die alone, but we don't have to face it alone.

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