October // Ghosts of Octobers Past: The trees are dying and so are you. We want to know what you plan to do with your remaining years. In the alternate, tell us about your favorite dead relative.
In case you’re wondering – yes, I figured out the problem with my iCloud photo synching (I didn’t have my wifi on)…just now. So Adele will have to wait until tomorrow.
I’m not sure how to answer this one. Am I supposed to write about it in a way like, “I’m dying right now”, or is this “in the future you are dying”. Or I could easily write about my grandfathers. But taking the easy path seems like cheating. Instead, I’m going to take this from the tack of “we are all slowly dying all the time, how will you make your path towards death a good one?”
With that in mind, let’s talk about the fact that I am constantly afraid of dying. Not in a reasonable way. And not in a medical way. Like, I’m not afraid of getting cancer and dying…not as much as I should be. No, most of my fears about death surround ridiculous and unlikely things. Airplanes crashing, falling off mountains, instant-death car crashes, zombies. When I’m feeling anxious in a situation that could (but likely won’t) put me in a situation to die this way, my brain starts working overtime. What will people say about me? What unfinished business, relationships and activities will define me in my obituary? What kind of conversations will be had about me at my funeral?
And so that’s kind of how I approach my slow walk towards death. We are here on earth for a limited time. I’m not entirely sure what’s next – I’d like to think that there’s some kind of heaven, but I don’t think it’s an afterlife we would understand. But even without “unfinished business” everyone leaves behind some kind of ghost – a reminder that they lived and made an impact on this world. That impact for most of us will be on the people we love and spend time with, and thus our ghost fades away when those people are gone or forget.
But maybe we make a bigger impact. That could be through volunteering or charitable donations, or other activities that fundamentally change the lives of those who we are not necessarily close to. In that case, our ghost lingers until the good effects of those whose lives we have touched fade away.
And then there are the monuments we leave behind. Sometimes they are physical buildings or plaques or stones. Sometimes they are a life’s work in the arts or sciences that leaves behind a series of works, be they fine art, books, journal articles, music, discovery. Something that will be passed down and studied as either something of interest, beauty, or contribution to the record of society. And your ghost will only fade when those monuments are no longer standing, relevant or remembered. Time will do that to us all, no matter how great a monument we erect.
So how will I spend my remaining years? Working towards leaving a ghostly legacy in the form or relationships, impact and monuments. If I died today my relationship ghost would live a fairly long life. My impact ghost would live a smaller one. And my monument would die when the domain name for this blog goes back up for sale. So that gives me some direction in how I should direct my life in coming years – continue with my relationships, find another volunteer charitable project towards which I can make a difference, and decide on what my more lasting monument will be. Perhaps I’ll write a novel if I can ever wrap my head around a plot that I like. More likely is an academic journal article (or two?) on my professional area of expertise. But writing this has helped me focus on what I leave behind, because I want my ghost to last as long as possible.
Details: This post is part of Project Reverb 2016, which sends out monthly (and sometimes daily during a month-long challenge) writing prompts for bloggers. If you’re interested in participating, sign up here.