For those of us who are selfishly scared of death, it’s likely because we’re so far removed from the subject, without context and without understanding.
Writer Cory Taylor unfortunately knew death quite intimately after over a decade of facing the inevitable head on. Taylor died in July 2016 but, before passing, she wrote an opus on the inevitable called Dying: A Memoir to discuss and unpack her experience.
One section of the book was recently shared by The New Yorker and is a tender wandering around what it feels like to be near the end. Taylor explains by answering a handful of deep questions that she was asked in relationship to a television show. They range from the silly (“Did I have a bucket list”) to the severe (“was there anything good about dying”).
The resulting essay on living and not is a reminder of self-sufficency and self-empowerment, to continue living as we are dying. “My priorities remain the same,” Taylor says of dying shaping her life. “Work and family. Nothing else has ever really mattered to me.” Taylor also mentions not taking more risks and not being happier or sadder but instead occasionally angry.
The story barrels to a touching conclusion that sums up the smallness and vastness of dying: it is as mundane as it is abstract.
The short answer to the question of what I’ll miss the most is Shin, my husband of thirty-one years, and the faces of my children.
The long answer is the world and everything in it: wind, sun, rain, snow, and all the rest.
And I will miss being around to see what happens next, how things turn out, whether my children’s lives will prove as lucky as my own.
While the circumstances are specific, this does resonate as I find myself thinking more and more, “Damn, I’ll never know what X, Y, or Z will be like when they’re in their golden years. I’ll never see my niece as an old woman. I’ll never know if we reverse climate change.”
That’s the thing about endings is the darkness that follows, the wall that we run into that is the book’s back cover: there’s nothing else. I’m very much looking forward to reading Taylor’s book and, if you’re similarly intrigued, the excerpt is a fantastic read: check it out here.