I know that I have morbid interests
My husband tells me all the time
and friends have been shocked
by the nature of the films and books I recommend.
I am especially drawn to films about impending death
and about people being faced with a terminal illness
“Do you think you have a mean streak”
a friend once asked.
“No I don’t” I was quick to reply.
I think I am misunderstood in this way.
It’s true that
while my husband cheers himself up
by watching matinee cartoons, comedies
or bikini clad women playing volleyball on the beach
I entertain myself with matters of death and dying.
But it has nothing to do with meanness.
Far from it.
People who work in hospices will tell you
that they are inspired by the people they care for.
Nobody understands the value of life more
than someone who has little of it left.
Nobody lives more intensely than someone who is dying.
It is in an effort to find value to my own life
that I tend to stalk the dying.
Isn’t that the strategy that our mothers taught us early on
when they told us to finish every bite of food on our plate.
“Think of all the starving children dying in Africa” they would say
appealing to a budding sense of empathy.
Eventually these nameless faceless kids
would materialize themselves in our impregnable minds
and those brussel sprouts didn’t look so bad anymore
It never seemed normal or appropriate
for me to be feeling so down about what most would deem
a very decent life.
Good health, a roof, food on the plate
and of course, a family.
People who have not experienced the depth of depression
don’t understand the guilt associated with it.
How dare I feel so sad with all that I have
when so many people have so much less.
How dare I even think of throwing away decades of potential life
when there are terminal patients out there
who would (and in point of fact do)
give up a limb for a few extra months of life
My hope is that if I stare into their eyes long enough
they will transfer this zest for life to me.