What If…This Was It

I grew up just outside New York City and lived in Boston, LA and San Francisco along with other places, so I know lots of folks in hotspots who’ve been affected by / had / even died as a result of the virus. Along with many others, I’m sure, I’ve been thinking about the possibility of becoming sick and perhaps dying myself.

That was a very earnest and heartfelt paragraph. Here’s a note about the rest: I write humor and do improv and stand-up comedy (or make a valiant attempt to, anyway)……..just so you know and don’t think I’m being cold and harshly flippant with some of what follows. In a recent joke-writing lab on Zoom, the teacher talked about how carefully we have to tread with this topic—but that people also really need to laugh, especially these days. There are a few more earnest heartfelt thoughts in what follows, as well, to be sure.

My husband and I just wrote out our wills. Interesting that it took a pandemic to finally get us to do that. If someone said to me, “Get your affairs in order,” thankfully I don’t know that there’s a whole lot I’d have to do.

I’ve already recycled all my old journals that I would never, ever want anyone to see. During an extremely close call in my car, an almost-accident, about six years ago, my first and main thought was, “I can’t die yet—my old journals are still hanging around!” The first thing I did when I arrived home was chuck them into the recycling bin. Okay, I can die now! I hope whoever sorted that particular recycling batch 1) had better things to do than look through them for even a second, or 2) had a great laugh. I know it’s anathema for most writers to even consider the idea of tossing their old journals, but mine were full of whining, not many thoughts that would move humanity forward or make a great book. Nowadays I keep my more notable ideas in my iPhone Notes (appropriate, considering they’re notable) and the whining has pretty much dissipated.

But…what if this was it, really? Would it have been enough? Well, it would have to have been enough, because, yes, there it was. As it was. It was what it was (or more precisely would’ve been what it would’ve been, but it was what it was has more pithiness and quippiness…if that’s not a word it is now).

I’ve gone to a lot of places, seen so many people, done a ton of things. Was it enough? Well, again, it’d have to be. There are a lot of places I haven’t gone, so many people I haven’t seen, and a ton of things I didn’t do. We can all say that, of course. But for the places to go, people to see, things to do, whatever we accomplished would be enough, no matter what age we are when we leave. I think of my 5-month-old nephew who died of SIDS as bringing tremendous gifts to everyone he touched. He lived a huge accomplishment—way more than “enough”—in his way-too-short life.

Part of my “enough” that I’m grateful for would be my books and comedy. Hopefully I’ve helped people chuckle, perhaps think new thoughts and consider different perspectives, forget about their troubles for a bit, and maybe even find a solution to said troubles.

I just turned 59, which, technically, is not its own year. It’s “almost 60.” My sister is “almost 70” and her longtime partner is “almost 90.” He started saying that a while back, however, because he found he got far more respect that way.

Turning 59 on 5/9 definitely has to count for something, though. I did find out something interesting about that. If you’re born on the 15th, when you turn 15 that’s called a “golden birthday.” When you throw the month in, too, and you turn, oh, say, 59 on 5/9, that’s called a “double golden birthday.” My old San Francisco roommate turned 58 on 5/8, so we were quite a golden pair this year.

Wow, 60. It’s getting poignant. I have twice as much behind me as I have in front of me, statistically speaking. This time-speeding-up-as-we-get-older thing is very real. Plus, is it me or are sunsets even more beautiful, laughter more buoyant, the courage of the first responders and essential workers more amazing and indelible, and the grass greener over here on this side?

Sometimes my husband and I discuss our memorial services. “Please let them know how often I’d wake up laughing,” I tell him. I really do want folks to know that because that’s not exactly easy to do. My husband actually hates it when we talk about such things because he doesn’t like to think of me being gone. I once told him that he could leave before me because the world doesn’t need as much pain as he’d be in if I left first. Yes, I feel very loved and loving in return. If I do leave first, though, I definitely want my husband to get married again. He’s far too dear a being to keep all that love and wonderfulness to himself.

I’ve been asked what my favorite moment of my life is. Well, I have two tied for first place. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that my husband and I were matched on eHarmony on June 21, 2006; we met face to face on July 14. We were engaged on July 16. I had my little Prius packed up and was moving from a cool, hippie surfer town on the Northern California coast to Topeka, Kansas (whaaaat?) on July 21. We were married on December 21. And did I mention he had two teenagers at the time?

Well, back up to that face-to-face minute—that’s one of my favorite moments of my life. Lounging in the Ramada Inn’s back seating area, I had my face buried in a book and I heard, “Ann?” I looked up and saw…well…an angel. He had—and still has—the sweetest brown eyes. You hear about those brown eyes in the love interests in my books. I already knew I was crazy about him because we’d talked every day and discovered how much we had in common, how in sync we were. So I knew all that and then…then…there was this…beautiful being.

My other favorite moment of my life was about an hour later. We went to pick up a pizza and were waiting for it in the restaurant. I looked out the window and saw a vista of the rest of my life. That very important question of who would I spend it with had just been answered. I looked over at him and he smiled. That moment was even bigger than the first face-to-face one.

I love to tell people the story of our meeting because if it happened to us, it could happen to anyone. We did happen to be very, very clear about what we were looking for. That’s a whole other blog and even a book or two.

So if favorite moments are on our minds as we’re dying, those two are probably what I’ll be thinking of as I’m leaving this world. On the other side, that’d be my answer if anyone ever asks what I loved most about Earth…like that great scene in City of Angels where Nicolas Cage as an angel asks that of a little boy who just died, and the boy answers, “Pajamas.” 😊

I’ve always been an adventurer, and that’s how I look at death. I’ll just be leaving this world for another world, another adventure. I know that with every cell in my body.

I’m no stranger to the grief journey, though, so I know the hardest part is the pain in those we leave behind. On the other hand, there’s no escaping this pain thing and there are benefits to it. I lost my mom at a fairly young age, but it made me the person I am. We all have life events to push off of, to turn us into the people we’re meant to be, and that was one of mine.

I had a deathish experience once, which I wrote about in an earlier blog. As I said then, I felt myself being swooshed up (very technical term, I know) in a swoosh (there it is again!) of love. It was like a vast tunnel of love. It kind of looked like that picture just above, although there was a greater contrast of the colors and motion against the blackness of the firmament. I felt countless other beings leaving this world, too, being swooshed up as I was.

Almost to a person, those who’ve had near-death experiences talk about the love they experience “out there.” That infinite love really makes up life right here on Earth, even though it certainly doesn’t always look or feel like it.

After a time floating in all that love, perhaps we come back here. Or maybe we go to other star systems. Or maybe…….well, the options are as infinite as the universes.