How can life bless us with something as warm and beautiful as a sunset, yet give us something as harsh, cold, and incomprehensible as death?
That’s what this post is about in one 140-character sentence that’s small enough to fit within a tweet.
I received a phone call today from one of my favorite college professors. I know he hasn’t been doing well, so the news shouldn’t have been a shock, but nothing hurts your heart quite like hearing the words “I’m dying” after asking how somebody you care about is doing.
As I heard his words and my brain registered their meaning, I had locked eyes upon the blossoming cherry tree standing tall outside my bedroom window. Its branches filled with hundreds of pink and white colored flowers are the epitome of the arrival of spring, yet somehow in that moment, it felt like fall.
Even in his current state of health, he set the time aside to call and extend an invite to his home so he could let me raid his bookshelves, because he knows just how much I love to read. How could someone as thoughtful as this be caused so much pain? How could someone so special and kind and full of life be robbed of the opportunity to experience old age and watch his grandchildren grow up? Why was he forced to retire from the job he loved so much in exchange for a new full-time position battling terminal cancer?
After hanging up the phone, I went to the lake in an attempt to clear my head. I stood there, watching the sun set and the waves rush back and forth to and from shore, while simultaneously frozen, staring off into space. A million thoughts bounced around in my brain, but I couldn’t seem to focus. The wind was cold, piercing through my thin, black cardigan, but somehow, I didn’t feel a thing.
Standing below the color-changing sky, I found myself asking why. It’s hard to grasp the fact that once we “go” we’re gone forever. How is it possible? How is it possible to be here one moment and not the next? Why do the good ones go first and the bad ones outlive the rest? Why do the most loving people go through the most heartache? Why? Why? Why?
The universe doesn’t burden us with anything we can’t handle, but something I’ve struggled with is the concept of death and dying. “You’ve seen too much of this in your life, too young,” my mom said when I told her the news — and I guess maybe I have. I’ve lost pets, relatives, my first grade teacher, a friend while in high school, a close friend while in college, my grandmother, an ex-boyfriend, and now I’m about to lose one of my favorite college professors.
Everything seems so trivial when faced with death. Text messages and Snapchats unanswered, an argument with a friend over something stupid, the asshole who cut you off on your morning commute to work — what’s the point of stressing over such miniscule, unimportant “issues” when they aren’t even “issues” at all? What’s the point of stressing when you’re taking your breaths for granted while others are fighting to take their last? When none of that shit matters and it’s all about the little things like how much love you gave and acquired, how many sunsets you’ve watched, how many hearts you’ve healed, how many laughs hurt your stomach and teared your eyes, how many stars you’ve counted, how many smiles you’ve inspired, how many lives you’ve touched?
Some things we’ll never understand. Some things we’re not meant to understand. I am a firm believer in the saying “Everything happens for a reason” but sometimes those reasons will never reveal themselves. We can only hope that it’ll all make sense in the end. Until then, we have to keep our heads high and our spirits higher and pray it’ll all be okay, which it will. We just have to keep faith and keep on going and keep living life to the fullest every day while we’re granted the blessing to live.