Originally written 2 January 2016, 11.36pm.
Lately I've been realising how much I think about death, particularly my own death.
I've mentioned on this blog before that I was suicidal for the better part of nine years. That time is past, but even after the suicidal thoughts were gone, I still thought about my own death a lot. Because I'd been suicidal for so long, it seemed normal to me. And because I'm an (aspiring) artist, it also stood to reason that I would ponder my own mortality more than the average person.
It never occurred to me that this might be strange until after Christmas. Over the past two weeks, like five people I know have gotten engaged (and I knew of at least eleven before that), and while everyone's talking about wedding planning and stuff, it began to occur to me that I'd never really even considered my own wedding or marriage. My (chronically single) sister has planned out her entire future wedding down to the amount of seconds it will take her to walk down the aisle, and I'd never thought to work out anything more specific than 'I'll be in white.' This might not seem strange to you until I tell you that I have my entire funeral planned out.
I'm not dying -- at least not of anything chronic (sometimes it feels like it though -- but my rant against the Canadian Health Care system is for another day). There's nothing in my life that is generally a harbinger of an early death. I mean, I could be taken out by an accident or something, but at the moment, I'm likely to live another seventy or eighty years (if the genes are any indication).
The other day I was thinking about this, wondering if maybe it was odd for me to have planned out my funeral while all my friends are planning weddings. Then I realised that in nearly every novel I've written, I make a cameo. And in almost every novel that features such a cameo, that character dies. Usually they die young, and usually they die suddenly -- one was murdered, one died of a virus, another indirectly committed suicide. But they're usually the 'me' character -- the one I identify with the most. And usually that character's death drives the book's plot. I've been dying vicariously through my characters. Why?
Again we turn to Kyrie. Only in Kyrie did I actually write a funeral, but that funeral was almost exactly the one I've planned out for myself. I featured some of the same songs I want played at mine, I featured the 'open mic eulogy' idea I want for my funeral, I featured a dance -- the same thing I want at my funeral. I focused on the heartbreak of the first-person narrator and the dead character's closest friend. It was pretty much my dream funeral.
The character who died was the 'me' character. Her goal was to touch people's hearts and encourage them as they trod the weary path of life -- as is mine. Her goal was to bring truth and beauty to a world that increasingly despises both -- as is mine. She had the courage to pursue her dreams of being an artist and when she died, although she touched the lives of many, and many missed her, there were 'villains' at her funeral: her parents (caricatures of everyone who's ever told me I was stupid and worthless purely because I'm not wired for a 9-to-5) and the director of the show that she was performing in when she died (who, as the narrator noted, mourned only the great talent he had lost, not the person herself).
In reflecting on that story, I recalled how much of my life has been spent in despair over this black hole in my heart and soul of feeling like I wasn't important to anybody. The question that has dogged my entire life since I was about nine years old was, If I died, would anybody miss me? That question fueled the lengthy suicidal episode and it still haunts me now. I asked my mother once and her response was, "Pfft! Of course I'd miss you," but it was so flippant and she seemed to think the question was ridiculous and annoying -- just like everything else about me. I'm not sure that if I died today, anybody would miss me for more than a week. And maybe that's why I took it so hard when my cousin died. After we got the phone call saying she was dead, my parents' reaction was, "well, God's in control," as if that settled it. They didn't ache, they didn't hurt, my mother didn't shed a single tear, though heaven knows my sister and I sobbed until we couldn't breathe at her funeral. They didn't mourn. They didn't care. They literally just shrugged and moved on. Less than a month after her death, my mother actually got upset at me: "Look, I don't know why you can't just move on already!"
Again -- less than a month after the third death close to me in as many months. The death of a child. And we're not counting the divorce-deaths in this tally.
And I'm starting to wonder if that's why every spark of life and joy and peace has shriveled up and died within me -- if that's how my parents react when a child close to them has died, how will they react if I were to die? Would they even care? Would they mourn me at all? Would they even notice a difference? And this is my parents. If I'm inconsequential in the eyes of my parents, how much less am I loved by those who aren't obligated to love me? Would I even be lucky enough to get a funeral? Or would people just send pithy cards to my parents with their regrets because they had work and call it good enough? Do I mean anything to anybody?
Some time ago, I wrote a post outlining my personal mission in life, and I've already alluded to it in this post. I want to touch people's lives. I want to encourage them and bring them a spark of hope or joy, the same way David Meece, Terry Scott Taylor/Daniel Amos, White Heart, and so on have brought to me. But if I can't even manage to touch the lives of my own family, never mind the random people I've happened to cross paths with in my life... then I've failed.
People always say on their deathbeds that the most important thing in life is the relationships you have and the people whose lives you've touched -- your spouse, your children, your parents, your family and friends. So many films, so many books, so many stories have that at their core. I'm one of the very few that have picked up on this long before actually dying, but I'm so inept at it. I want to know that I've helped somebody keep their chin up for even one more day. I want to know that something I created helped bring refreshment to a soul weary of this depressing world. But I don't know that I have. I don't know if I or the work of my brain and my hands have been important to anybody. I don't need to be famous. But I want to know that my life meant something to somebody.