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The Ending is Yours

We will never know how death will come to visit her.

Maybe it will be a surprising appearance, like running into an old high school friend in a grocery store thousands of miles away from their hometown. Or maybe it will be a destructive intrusion waking us from sleep with a smashed window and immediate fear. Or maybe it will be as a welcomed friend, arriving at an open front door and finding her waiting in the foyer with her jacket on and bags packed.

In the meantime, she's driving her car down an open freeway. She has her window partway down despite the frigid air blowing in because she likes it. She's singing at the top of her lungs with no passengers to complain about or appreciate her vocal acumen. She's made her decision. Somewhere she worries her will to follow through may waver, but right now, she's resolute. So as she sings "If you worry, don't worry about me" over and over, she means it in every molecule of her physical being.

She thinks to herself that she wouldn't change anything about her life. The only thing she regrets is the ways she caused pain to others. When she takes those out, when she really makes it just about her, she appreciates how every awful experience allowed her to change and continues to find solace in every beautiful one.

She hates how trite it sounds, even if only in her mind, because this belief did not come easy. It was not a hallow home decor sign sitting on her mantel, encouraging someone to "Live, Laugh, Love", it was the well-earned philosophy of someone who emerged from a burning house scathed. But alive. Someone who understood the house should have been demolished years ago anyway.

Up to this moment, she knew her specific personality or conditioning, depending on one's perspective, was one that would always place other people's experiences above her own. So it seems fitting to her that she was finally only thinking of herself. Selfish. Once a dirty word that would make her metaphorically wash her mouth out with soap now felt kind.

Heartless, she knew she was not, redefined was a much better description in her head. Beginning to live her life for herself and take responsibility along the way. "And really," she says out loud to the empty car "Wasn't it selfish all along? To only behave in ways others wanted so I could feel good about myself? To gain some fake acceptance?" and she laughs at the truth.

We join her in this 4 minutes and 57 seconds of her life not knowing what happens next, not knowing where she's going, or how life will unfurl before her. For us, the credits roll with the image of her driving and singing through a cold winter alone.

If we're being truthful, this is how it will be for everyone we love or hate. We see into each other's lives like glimpses from a fast-moving car on the highway, always slightly removed and rarely with a true understanding of the work it takes to create rolling fields of corn or skyscrapers. We are only shown what they are willing to show.

Everything in our being calls out to be known, understood, and accepted. Those brief moments of welcoming, if one is lucky to find any, are often short. Even in the people closest to us, their frustration or annoyance sits alongside their acceptance. Until one day life ends. And there are no more moments to seek comfort from others.

So, we will smile at her driving in her car, singing to the radio, feeling the winter air brush past her face, and resign ourselves to all we don't know. We wish her well with a wave and smile as her car passes us by and we retreat into our own minds and try to live life in a way that we don't fear its end.

Because our ends are always our own and we will never know how death will come to visit us.

"If you worry, don't worry about me" taken from Mt. Joy's "Younger Days". Listen here.


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