It’s only fitting that this particular entry goes live on the 1st of May. On this day seven years ago we were given a second chance. To this day, it is by far the closest I’ve ever been to solving the mystery of “What happens after death?”
Through my years, I’ve experienced death a few times and in different ways. The earliest I can think back is to when I was a child, no older than five. My grandma took me to the cinema. We watched Lion King and I remember enjoying the movie. The pretty, vibrant colors, all the animals singing and dancing, the hardship and struggle Simba had to go through and of course the death of Mufasa. I didn’t cry when it happened, because I didn’t really comprehend it. After we got home, that was when it hit me. I was happy and sad, but didn’t exactly know why. As I was deep in thought, I got my finger caught between the door and the frame. There was no blood, no swelling, it didn’t even hurt that much, but I started crying uncontrollably. I have memories of my mother consoling me, how it’s not that bad and my finger is fine. The thing was, I didn’t cry because of the finger, but the movie. The incident with the door was irrelevant, but the death of a movie character was everything. Looking back at it through the eyes of an adult, I needed that release. I needed a way to express my emotions, my sadness and sorrow. Crying made it easier to understand and relate to what had happened to Mufasa and Simba. I may have not known it today, but I’m certain of it now.
When I was nine I got my first and only pet for Christmas. It was the most adorable little hamster, that I named Miki. Hamsters usually live about 2-3 years, but mine didn’t make it that far. One day I got home from school and I found him lying in his cage, completely still. He was stiff when I touched him, almost as if he was sleeping. I knew it not to be the case, but I put him back in the cage. I didn’t know what to do in this situation, so I just left him there. My parents weren’t home that early and I had basketball practice in 30 minutes. I kept thinking about his lifeless body and how it’s entirely my fault. During practice I wasn’t really there and like last time I needed an outside reason to express my pain. I got into an altercation with the coach’s son, which ended with him yelling at me. It wasn’t anything new, that the coach yelled at you or took his son’s side. This time it felt different, I didn’t just stand there and take it or even argue back, but I fell on my knees and started crying. After a bit, I was able to utter out the words that my hamster had just died and he eased off. I buried my pet a week later in a small box. Still unsure of what exactly had happened.
Sometime soon, I would have one of my first serious talks with my mother. You know the ones I mean, because you see it on TV all the time. “The birds and the bees”, “where does the poop go” and “what happens when we die” talks. For some reason I can distinctly remember the latter. It was a dark evening and I was alone in my room. My door was closed, lights turned off and I’m sitting on my bed crying. I had been there for at least an hour, thinking about death. Trying to conjure up as much brain power as a ten year old could. Expecting to figure out the answer to the question, even the wisest of old men can’t answer. Eventually I just started crying, because I didn’t know. I was scared of not knowing, what would happen if the lights stayed off, permanently.
My mother happened to walk in to my room and asked me, why I was crying. I explained to her my situation and asked, fully expecting an answer to death. When we are children, our parents are our heroes. They seem to know everything, which we don’t. To my surprise, she didn’t know and that’s what she started off with. “Nobody knows exactly what happens when we die, but there are plenty of ideas.” As she explained me the ways of the Buddha, the Christian dogma and the facts of science, she never pushed one over the other. She wanted me to make my own choice, to follow my own path in this theory. The truest way of expressing it – “We won’t know, until we die.”
A year later I would experience the loss of human life. My great-grandfather passed away at the age of 82. For me as a kid he was a great man, who had suffered through all the wars and depression that ravished Estonia. Despite all the hardships, he was always jolly. Every time I went to the countryside, to stay with my grandparents, the first thing I did was pay him a visit. I would go up to his house, shake his hands and tell him, how I’ve been doing in school. Every, single, time. I didn’t know much about him, and I’m sad to admit that I still don’t, but the memories I have of him are almost all pleasant. The only exception would be his funeral. It was held at a church, open casket and everything. I don’t remember anything before or after, but I remember everything I felt in the church. As I looked around, I saw all the women and children crying, the men teary-eyed or still holding strong. A conviction popped into my head, I will not cry. No matter what happens, no matter how painful, no matter how sad I feel, I will not cry. The final moment I have of him, was when I was standing in line for the final farewell. You saw his calm demeanor as he lie there in his casket. When it was my turn, I clenched my teeth and looked at him, still holding on to my conviction. He seemed so at peace with himself. At that point I felt a train of emotions rush through me. Everything I shared with him, the time we had spent together, and the loss everyone suffered with his passing. My emotions and my conviction conflicting each other, I walked away with a tear rolling down my cheek.
I’m not proud to admit, but there was a point and time in my life, when I was suicidal. Then that was the closest I had ever come to death personally. I never harmed myself or tried to take my life, but the idea was always there. I liked to sit outside the window of an 8th story apartment and wonder about it. Would it hurt? Could I reach that tree, when I change my mind half-way down? How many people would actually care? Who would hurt the same way people did at my great-grandfathers funeral? The last time I did, I must’ve been 14. I’d had an especially rough time and I really wanted to go. End this misery and my rotten existence, everyone would be better off anyway. What made me reconsider was the thought of hurting my family. It wouldn’t have been fair to them, because they were not at fault here. Today, I can honestly say that I can’t remember, when the last time I had suicidal thoughts was. This is where I would like to quote Fifty: “Death gotta be easy, ‘cause life is hard. It’ll leave you physically, mentally and emotionally scarred.”
The first of May in 2012 is a day that IVAN and I will always remember. We had just finished our first day at the farm, and were driving back home. 140 km/h, wet road, S-turn were the main factors for the accident that happened. The car started sliding, drove off the road, hit a ditch, flipped, hit a tree and landed wheels down in the middle of the road. My first reaction was to laugh at the absurdity of the situation, because just a few seconds ago I thought I was going to die. There was no life flashing in front of my eyes, but a scene from a movie popped into my head. “Oh, they got it right, that’s what it looks like when you’re upside down with your car.” Neither of us had any injuries, but IVAN was stuck in the driver’s seat. It took the rescue team three hours to cut him out. The medics told us that it’s a miracle we’re alive. A slight shift in speed, trajectory or our dumb luck would have killed us. To this day, I still sometimes get paranoid when someone I don’t trust is driving the car.
A part of me feels that I cheated death that day. The other part of me chooses to believe that it wasn’t yet my time. Regardless of the reason, one day we will all die. It is part of being human. Each and every one of us given a set amount of time in this world, and it’s up to us to decide what we do with it. There is no point in being afraid of death or dying. Instead, I choose to use it as fuel. It’s something that drives and motivates me. It makes me want to use all the days I’m given to the fullest. Achieve what I aim for. Strive for what I desire. Live my life in a way that when Mr. Reaper finally does come, I’ll greet him and go without regrets. I lived my life.