When I was about six years old, I stumbled into our tiny lounge room in tears. I can’t remember what I’d been doing before that moment, but I remember standing in the middle of the lounge room, looking at our family photos and our hand-me-down couch, and crying like I don’t think I’d cried since I was too young to speak.
My mum came running into the room, probably expecting blood or spilled organs or, you know, a stubbed toe. I was six. Instead I screamed her name and ran at her, wrapping my chubby little arms around her waist.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?” she asked, in her most comforting, patient, mother voice.
“I—don’t—want—to—die.” I hiccoughed in the gaps between my shuddering sobs.
My mum then went on to ask me why I thought I was going to die. I told her, once I could speak with only a few sniffles in between phrases, that I didn’t think I was going to die. I knew I was going to die one day.
I think Mum said something nonsensical, like “you won’t have to worry about that for a very, very long time”. But of course, she didn’t know that. Still doesn’t. I think I was comforted at the time, but I can’t really remember anymore.
This was the moment that I knew that I wasn’t immortal. That one day I would go to sleep and not wake up. Of course, I had a whole-hearted belief in Heaven at the time, so this didn’t really worry me. Nowadays, I’m not so sure. I don’t actually know what I believe. I like to think that once I close my eyes for that final time, there’s something afterwards, but who knows?
My whole attitude to life can kind of be described as existentialist, which I’ve talked about before. That there really isn’t a point to life; that we have to make it up as we go along. Scary, yes. But freeing, if we let it be. Thing is, though, I’ve had a preoccupation with death for most of my life. Not in a depressing way. More in a terrified-rabbit-trapped-in-oncoming-headlights kind of way. Sometimes I just stop and realise how much time has passed and think about how quickly the next few decades could pass. Sometimes I’m falling asleep and I think that this could be how it all ends, one day. Sometimes, I just get really scared of the day that I won’t be here anymore. Because life is so vivid and encompassing and troubling and alive that it’s hard to believe that one day we just aren’t here.
Maybe this is why we cling so hard to the idea of religion. I’m not saying I’ve completely abandoned my Catholic upbringing, but I’m saying that maybe the reason that religion has lasted for so long is because we all need to think that we never truly leave this world.
I don’t know. I’m feeling a little dark today. It’s been a bad morning.