Once I fell backwards from the branches of a willow tree, straight down onto my spine on a wooden picnic table in my best friend’s backyard. It knocked the breath from me in a painful whoof! and for a moment I couldn’t assess the damage, I couldn’t tell how badly I’d been hurt.

Almost every morning I scan through the obituaries. I look for people under a certain age. I look for birth dates close to mine.

Cancer.

Car accidents.

Heart attacks.

Passed away on. Her passions included. He will be missed by. Remembrances can be made to.

I used to love the stomach-dropping sensation of a plane’s takeoff, the moment all that metal and bulk is heaved into the sky and you can feel the immense strain and effort it takes. Now I clench my jaw and peer out the windows and think please and eventually oh, just get it over with. Go ahead and fall from the sky because you’re going to do it anyway, I’m tired of worrying about it. Just get it over with.

I don’t really mean it and the complicated mechanisms of flight don’t listen. They are busy. They have nothing to do with me, even when I’m convinced they have everything to do with me.

What will you remember, will you remember anything? A zipline across wild blueberries and tall green ferns in Michigan. The sound of surf and cold salt-spray on my lips in Oregon. My husband’s hand in mine the day we were married. My babies’ first cries, first smiles, first steps. Stop: rewind. Don’t go so fast.

The plane is going to fall and I don’t know when it will happen and I am scared it will be too soon. I am scared it will hurt. Will it be like falling backwards from a tall tree. Will my breath be knocked away.

Will, instead, it be slow and terrible. Will I become a burden.

Tick-tock, tick-tock. Shut up. Fuck you. I’m not listening. You’re the sly, rotted promise of hospital beds and oxygen masks and last-ditch medications and protruding bones and failing organs and the smell of shit, but I don’t believe in you. You’re not even real. You’re invisible. You can’t steal from me because I won’t let you. You can’t darken my life because I am turning on all the motherfucking lights one by one.

I look through the paper. (My name isn’t there.)

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Amy M.
Amy M.
13 years ago

Wow – you’re a great writer! I almost started crying during the memories portion. Thanks.

I do the horribly morbid obit reading, too. Now I feel less weird about it :) My hubby thinks I’m nuts

Pete
Pete
13 years ago

I was about your age when I first really thought about death. Since I don’t believe in the ‘ever after’ I concluded that I would really miss me.

Jen O.
13 years ago

I’ve just started to think about death in this way. I’m so afraid to leave everything behind. I don’t want to be without my kids and I don’t want them to have to be without me. I’m more afraid of that then I am of what comes after death.

Lauren
13 years ago

Holy God, does that sum up what I feel about death these days. I never worried about it or really even considered it until my sweet baby girl was born. Now, I admit it plagues me more than I would like to admit.

Great post, Linda. You are such an amazing writer!!

Eric's Mommy
Eric's Mommy
13 years ago

I love the title of your post. One of my favorite songs.

That first paragraph reminded me of when I got thrown off of a horse and landed on my back a couple years ago.

justmouse (or Chaosmomm..whatever)

“What will you remember, will you remember anything? A zipline across wild blueberries and tall green ferns in Michigan. The sound of surf and cold salt-spray across my lips in Oregon. My husband’s hand in mine the day we were married. My babies’ first cries, first smiles, first steps. Stop: rewind. Don’t go so fast.”

that gave me goosebumps. seriously. normally i dont really think about death at all, but just the past few years, i have noticed how very fast time is going, and because i am so caught up in MYSELF, and all the random bullshit that seems to surround my life, i have missed a great deal of it. i see my son is almost a man. i see my husband is closer to 50 than he is to 30. i realize that i am living my life as if at the end of it, if i am not satisfied, that i can do it again. as if there is somehow a second chance at the end of it all. and for some reason, it’s only just occurring to me NOW that this is all there is. there is only the one chance, so i better start paying attention and do it right.

Stop: rewind. Don’t go so fast….

Emily
13 years ago

I have no words for how perfectly you put that. You are a stunning writer.

Tiffany
Tiffany
13 years ago

I have borderline panic attacks at night when I’m trying to turn off my mind and fall asleep. I know it’s eventual, but the fact that it’s unknown as to when and how, that is what scares me.

My fear is what drives me to really embrace as many moments with my kids as I can. Not only because they are growing so fast, but because they will eventually not need Mommy any more. I don’t know if that scares me more…

Stacy Quarty
13 years ago

Moving.

AndreAnna
13 years ago

I feel like I constantly outskirt tragedy, only a half-step in front of it, and that it lurks, ever-present, waiting… just waiting.

And the thought of never seeing my husband or children again – or worse, leaving them a widower and motherless – takes my breath away every time the thought catches in my throat.

Yet, I swallow it down, day after day. Because really, what choice do we have other than to pretend that not my family. No, not mine. Not me.

Great writing.

Nichole
13 years ago

Gracious.

Meghan
Meghan
13 years ago

Did you watch Synecdoche New York by any chance?? I watched it last night and your post is eerily similar. If not-watch it! It’s weeeeird. (De-lurking, un-lurking, whatever, after longtime reading)Thanks!

Caroline
13 years ago

I can’t think of a more ladylike way to put this… you are effing amazing.

Hillary
13 years ago

That was beautiful.

Kris
Kris
13 years ago

Its easy to say “not me, not my family” until it happens to your family…Your brother with a beautiful two year old, and no risk factors suddently has colon cancer. Then its all “Oh shit! It could be me, any minute….”

Nothing But Bonfires
13 years ago

I would like to marry you. I know you’re already married, and I’m engaged, but just in case you should change your mind, or I mine.

Jenn
13 years ago

Wow. Puh-leeze write a book : )

Ashley
13 years ago

You are such an excellent writer Linda….so so excellent. I remember when my therapist told me I had a touch of thantophobia when I was 24. I must be off the scales now that I am a mother. I hate that ‘this’ goes so fast.

Cassie
Cassie
13 years ago

Yea Sundry!! I was just thinking this morning that I needed a short story from Sundry, it’s been a while. And here it is. You must have read my mind. Thank you. You are awesome!!! Now if you also thought about re-posting that photo of JB’s back side (I believe you guys were camping and all I remember is him standing there in the buff with wilderness in the background), then we should totally get a psychic hot line set up and charge ridiculous amounts of money.

Kate
13 years ago

OMGosh, I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes. For several reasons. First, you put it so achingly beautifully. Second, because you and others feel this way too?!! You mean, I’m not the only one and a complete fearful freak for feeling this fear??? Seriously, I have felt SO much that I am just one of those ultra sensitive people, with a horribly guilty conscious that is waiting for the other shoe to drop, and that somehow, I deserve it when it does. I am so scared of something happening to me or one of my kids that it at times is near paralyzing. Fortunately, I still have the capacity to “change channels” and redirect my thoughts when they get a little too graphic. I’ll quit exposing myself now as a fearful lunatic, but I just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU and that this has touched me on so many levels today.

Jennifer
13 years ago

I thought I was the only one who did that morbid obit read-through. Glad to know I’m not the only crazy one.

Undomestic Diva
13 years ago

Well that was fucking depressing. And also? Me.

shygirl
shygirl
13 years ago

Thank you, Sundry.

Thank you for being so brave and writing about the things you do. Thank you for bringing the secret fears out of the darkness and shining some light on them.

It’s hard to have secret fears. But it’s a tremendous relief to have someone else call them out, and to hear a chorus of people saying “yes, yes, me too”. It kind of takes some of the sting out of it, oddly. I feel like, if we’re *all* feeling this way, then there’s some strange comfort in that, you know?

So: thank you. A thousand times thank you.

SJ
SJ
13 years ago

*goosebumps*

This was touching on so many levels. You are an amazing writer – beautifully done.

MRW
MRW
13 years ago

One of the very first indications I had that I wanted to have children came when I was reading the obituary section of the Bar Journal and someone was survived by their parents and siblings – no kids. I thought “I want my obituary to say she is survived by her ___ children.” It wasn’t the most important reason I had a child, but it was the first hint that kids were something I wanted. Now that I’m a mother of a young child I am much more cautious than I was before – the thought of leaving my son forever is crushing.

Belle
Belle
13 years ago

As one who will be turning 60 this year, all I can say is I think of dying all the time. I am hell-bent on squeezing every available hour out of a day, fully realizing I shall have on my tombstone “But I wasn’t DONE”. I really really fear I am running on borrowed time and that scares the shit out of me. I have no real reason to think that, but I still do.

I am not so afraid of the act of dying as I am of leaving people who count on me – and that makes me feel very guilty. I worry that my husband and adult kids would forget about me and just go on with their lives…you know….like they are supposed to. Don’t we all just eventually get on with it when a loved one dies?

My sister-in-law just died – fell and fractured her skull, laid in a coma for 4 days and then died after taking out all the tubes. One day she was waving to the person in the house she had just been to, and the next minute she’s basically gone. Who ever knows how they are gonna go? And I guess that’s the point…..live it like you won’t be here tomorrow. Trite but oh so true!

Beautifully written post today!

sdg
sdg
13 years ago

I am more scared of dying young, and leaving my children alone and unprepared for life than at any other time. Dying old, getting old, doesnt bother me. When its your time, thats it, aint no stopping it. If that comes before my sons are ready…. I will be pissed off.

nobody
nobody
13 years ago

I wish my name was there.

Reagan
13 years ago

Awesome post- you really captured my recent thoughts!

Melanie
13 years ago

Today is the birthday of a dear friend who died last at a way-too-young-for-him (and all the many people who knew him and loved him) 63. I am going to the cemetery in a few minutes. Thank you for that, Linda. It was beautiful.

Traci
Traci
13 years ago

Heart-achingly head-poundingly beautiful. I wish there was a way to capture some of that and feed it to a depressed 20 year-old who thinks that there is nothing to live for.

heather
heather
13 years ago

you are such an incredibly gifted writer, girl.

Sadie
Sadie
13 years ago

Nobody, I don’t even know you, but I am glad your name isn’t. :(

Emily
13 years ago

Nobody, I agree with Sadie. I hope if you meant that you will find help. Help is out there I promise. It’s hard to ask for but when you do it is worth it. Good luck to you.

iidly
13 years ago

I’m glad your name wasn’t there. Was mine there?

Leah
13 years ago

I’ve never heard anyone else describe that “just get it over with already” feeling while flying. Simon thinks it means I’m crazy. Maybe he’s right, but at least I’m in good company.

Val
Val
13 years ago

You have no idea how calming this post was for me. Calming? Yes. I figured it was probably a “stage” I’m going through -that as I age I “might” feel better and differently about death – but your post, and the others comments, make me feel so much better about myself, and my dark and scary thoughts about death. My biggest fears aren’t death itself, but all the things I would miss, and all the pain and ache I would leave my children and husband with. Ugh. Now I’m tearing up again. Thank you for saying what so many of us fear.

Christine B
13 years ago

Wow.

Just wow. You definitely hit the nail on the head with that one. Awesome. I loved it.

Tammy
Tammy
13 years ago

Man oh man was that worth reading. It’s amazing how you can turn such a dark topic into such beautiful words. And I wonder if you are surprised at all the ‘me too’s!’? I am, even though I am a ‘me too’.
I think when we are young and single, we enjoy the thrill of planes taking off and we climb trees, despite the risk of falling. When we have kids, it’s no longer about us, it’s about them. Suddenly there is a whole nother person to think about and our primary goal is to take care of them and then the fear creeps in that something will happen and we won’t be able to.

Vanessa
13 years ago

I agree with everyone that this is beautiful writing. I also have fears like this, im only 19. A friend of mine died 2 years ago and ever since then I’ve felt like my life is going to be short, and im terrified of it…Of when it will happen, will it hurt? Will I have a family of my own by then?…I dont want to leave all my loved ones because I know how much it hurts to lose somebody.
My fiance lost a high school classmate on sunday so it’s been on my mind more then usual lately.
Im so scared im going to turn into one of those paranoid people who dont even leave their house for fear of dying…

danielle
danielle
13 years ago

I admire you for thinking of these things – facing them head on. When thoughts like that creep into my mind I stuff them back down. I don’t have the strength to ponder the possibilities.

Kim
Kim
13 years ago

This was absolutely stunning.
So you’re telling me it gets WORSE after you have kids? The thought of that is almost unbearable considering how I feel about it already.

Ashley
13 years ago

This is intense and wonderful.

Caleal
13 years ago

This is pretty much amazing. I feel like this all the time.

sweetcheese
13 years ago

Wow. Maybe this is because I’m taking all English classes, but this is pure poetry. And it speaks to me. Thanks.

amber
amber
13 years ago

I was listening to “Skeletons” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and it fit so well it was eerie.

http://www.lala.com/#song/432627058349050073

Amy
Amy
13 years ago

Sigh. Lovely. Not death so much, but your writing.

Anne
13 years ago

i have been lurking for ages. i look forward to you posts. they make me so excited to get married and have kids (i’m not your ‘regular audience.’

this post compelled me to reply. i don’t know why. i have thought many similar thoughts.

thank you for writing.

Vicki
Vicki
13 years ago

So so beautiful!

Kami
Kami
13 years ago

Awesome post. I never really thought about death until I became a mama, now the thought alone freaks me out, so scary.