She was 48, and yes, her death was unexpected.
It may seem, perhaps, a bit morbid to start writing a blog with a reflection on death. The trail of thought that leads to these penned lines however began innocuously enough – I was simply reconnecting with an old friend I had not met for many years. It was a fairly routine setting: a few stolen minutes ahead of a long flight in a busy airport café, and the catching up was old fashioned, befitting the years bereft of instant twitter-facebook updates: excited half-sentences, bolting from one life event to another, flitting topics and faces from family to friends to colleagues. And as we made our way through our mental checklists, we came to her name, and I could tell from the instant downward glance and the simultaneous lowering of voice that the “update” was not going to be good.
Apparently, she passed away a few months ago –unexpectedly- leaving behind a husband and a young child. It had started as a minor complaint one evening, that led to a seemingly routine trip to the hospital to get checked out, and just hours later, to death.
Just hours later, flying over the deep waters of the Atlantic (and idly wondering on the marvel and self insouciance of traveling thousands of miles in a compressed-air-filled aluminum tube) I could not help but thinking: why does death shock and surprise us such? It is the one guarantee bestowed on each and every one of us the day that we are born: that we are going to die. We know that we are not immortal: each day and all around us we hear, see or learn of people passing, and yet for the most part we live in a happy pretense that death is something that happens to someone else, or if it happens to us, happens at a later, distant, very distant time.
My point here is not that one must brood -or live in fear of- death. It is the realization of how much we live in denial and so often simply in anticipation of the future. We always (perhaps subconsciously) think of dying that happens at a far time away and when we are “ready” for it. And as such, we spend our days and years postponing happiness as a future-state event, something we will be after we have done this or feel when we have achieved that. Death then, should be a happy reminder that all we really have is what we have. Happiness, life and living are what are around us. Each day, each moment, is a chance to be happy in whatever way we can.
Make each day count. As Professor Keating exhorts his young protégés by borrowing the famous phrase from Horace: Carpe Diem…make your lives extraordinary !