What the past two years have taught us is that disease and death have become visible again. The pandemic has swept away millions, and many who have contracted COVID have been abruptly confronted with their own mortality. Fortunately, no one in my immediate family and acquaintance has died from it, but that is the exception for many, where in some cases several people in the circle of friends and relatives have passed away from us due to COVID.
The question for me is how I would handle it if I learned that my time had come. Would I be ready to go?
What I mean by that is, have I done all that I set out to do? Can I calmly say I have divorced on good terms with people around me? Have I created something that I can look back on with pride?
When I was a teenager, a friend was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. The doctors gave him six months, but he fought. He was at the beginning of his studies, went to all the arduous treatments and after a few years he thought he had beaten the cancer. But the joy was deceptive. It came back worse and nine years after the cancer diagnosis he died at 26.
Since then, my attitude toward life has been based on this experience. He had a problem that he could not solve and that took away and deprived him of many opportunities. Every problem I have, whether it is personal or professional, and no matter how difficult, is solvable. I, unlike him, have the privilege of doing things that he could never do. No matter how hard it is sometimes, I have the privilege of being able to face these problems at all. But is that enough?
A few years ago, a twenty-year-old from my circle of acquaintances was prematurely taken from life. At the wake, relatives and friends who had come from all directions described personal events to him. And I was certainly not the only one who sat there thinking what people would say about me when my time came. For about the deceased the mourners spoke so many good things that I thought to myself, I am already such an old fool and have done only a fraction of the good that he accomplished in his too short life.
Am I ready to go? Sure, everyone has plans, which we also like to postpone again and again. And we are always in full preparation for the next vacation, the next project, the house we want to build, the job we want to change, the hobby we wanted to take up, the friends we haven’t met in a long time, the ones we wanted to invite over for dinner, and then we only bog down again in front of the TV or on social media.
Sure, I have left a certain footprint. I’ve written books, graduated, done cabaret once, edited a satirical magazine, played music for dancers, traveled to many countries, and hopefully left a positive impression on one or the other. But was that all I wanted or still want? I am bursting with plans of what books I still want to write, and what new things I still want to learn. Also who else I would like to meet or rekindle a long faded friendship and perhaps offer an apology or a few words that are on my heart. But what is more important to me now, what have I put off until now?
For many, the pandemic shows how quickly one’s own plans and ideas can get mixed up and make us set new priorities. And when the time came, could I, could you, say with a clear conscience “I’m ready to go?“