Some Thoughts On Living and Dying

I was talking privately with some fellow author friends yesterday — guys I’ve known for over twenty years now. Guys who I have representations of tattooed on my back. Those kind of friends.

Anyway, they were talking about growing older, and the changes everyone is going through, and the possibility of death. This was all inspired by the fact that another of our friends who is also our age was recovering from open heart surgery.

This is a slight permeation of what I wrote. I’ve taken out a few personal details, and changed the names of my sons (my oldest is referred to as Grunge and his little brother is referred to as Turtle), and added a few things to clarify, but the rest stays intact. I’m posting it here because I owe you a Blog entry today, and I’d like to do one that’s not just a link to other things, and also because I’m worried that my thoughts on suicide (which are voiced in tonight’s episode of my podcast) will be misconstrued/misunderstood by some listeners.

“Truth is, boys — I’m ready for it. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want it to happen. I don’t want to die. Turtle is too young to put through that, and truthfully, being his Dad? It’s the thing I’m best at and the best thing I’ve ever done.

But between Pic and Jesus and Jason and everybody else that has passed recently, the fact is — we ain’t kids anymore. Yes, anyone can die at any time, but as we get older, the odds change. As someone who has spent his life beating the odds, I’m all too aware that they’re getting more and more difficult.

With that in mind, I half expect it at anytime. When Coop showed up at the studio yesterday to record the podcast, my heart was giving me trouble. It gave me trouble throughout the broadcast. And that’s with meds, exercise, eating right, etc.

So, I’ve got my shit in order — literary estate, instructions for the rest of Jesus’s literary estate, regular will, Turtle’s college, etc.

I hope it won’t be soon. I’d like to see Turtle graduate and become whatever it is he wants to be. I’d like Grunge to make me a grandpa in a few years, if he’s ready. I’d like to get a Lifetime Achievement Award.

But if it happens, I’ll be at peace with it, because I’ve accomplished what I set out to do, and my kids love me, and my exes have forgiven me my sins. I’ve had a pretty spectacular run. I’ve had some amazing adventures. I’ve seen almost all the world. I’ve laughed and drank far from home. I’ve had more than my fair share of romantic partners (not as many as Lemmy, but its not like I was out to break a record) and have been lucky enough to have loved many and been loved by many. I’ve cheated death, I’ve been to jail, I’ve driven fast into the sunrise, walked slowly into the sunset, walked through forests and deserts and everything in between, and danced naked in a few of them, too. I’ve held babies and puppies. I’ve gotten wisdom from both the old and the young. When I was a kid, I wanted to walk on Mars, and I still do, but other than that, there’s nothing I truly desired to do that I haven’t already done. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write things that brought people joy. Here I am.

So, no, I don’t want to die. I may be afraid when it happens. But I’m also at peace with it if it happens. I’m at peace with the certainty that it will come. I’ve had a spectacular run. Anything from here on out is just gravy…”

14 thoughts on “Some Thoughts On Living and Dying

  1. I’m not sure why I’m even typing this, to be honest. Maybe just to get it off my chest.

    A few years after ETSing out of the Army, I was diagnosed with PTSD, Bipolar II disorder, and high anxiety. I was prescribed depression medication, and for about two or three years, life was getting back to “normal”. I was laughing again — something I hadn’t done in years. I didn’t feel numb to emotions anymore. I was getting over the fact that I had gotten a divorce, watched my grandmother die shortly after receiving the news that she had pancreatic cancer, and then in July, 2011 our family was torn upside down by the murder of my aunt. A mentally unstable ex-boyfriend decided to kill his then girlfriend, her sister, their mother and then drive across town and murder my aunt. I was trying to be so strong for everyone else that I didn’t realize that anything was going on with my medicine until Dec. 26th, 2011.

    I was sitting in my room watching Friday the 13th, Part V: A New Beginning. I had been binge watching all the Jason flicks with no ill effect, but for whatever reason, this particular movie made death real. I knew I was going to die, and that scared the shit out of me. I hate to describe it this way, but it really sums up how I felt: It felt like a Dementor, from the Harry Potter series, came into my room and preceded to suck the joy out of me. I didn’t know happiness. Only blackness, sadness, and fear.

    I promptly turned off the film, and sort of sat there, hugging myself rocking back and forth. I didn’t know what was going on, or how to fix myself. For the next two weeks, I lived everyday knowing that I was going to die. Depression had blanketed itself around me so tight, that I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was terrified to leave the house; even more so to stay home alone. Death had crippled me — and I had let it.

    I finally went back to my mental health doctor and was told that I had the worse case of PTSD that she had ever seen. She prescribed me new medication, and I can happily say that I am doing well. I have my days. But, when Death decides to try and scare me, I tell him to fuck off. I know I’m going to die, but I’m not giving it the power to run my life again. And I have you to partially thank for this.

    I was familiar with your books at this point, but hadn’t had a chance to read a lot of them — The Rising, Ghoul, and The Conqueror Worms were my “introduction books”. I decided that I liked your writing style and went on Amazon and bought a few others.

    I picked up Dark Hallow and read the first line. I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve loved to read since I was in elementary school. No book has ever caught my interest like the first line in Dark Hollow. I had to finish this book — I honestly wouldn’t have been mad it the book sucked — I’m glad I did. It’s helped me so much.

    That book is my Pow wow, my magic against death, the bad thoughts, the sadness. I’ve read it dozens of times. I recommend it to everyone — all of your books, really — but Dark Hollow more, because it has helped me more than any other book I’ve read. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to you and your books. Thank you!

    I wish you nothing but the best. Thank you for all the great stories. Here’s to many more.

    1. Thanks for sharing that, Terry. I’ve had PTSD myself (probably still have it — we don’t ever really get rid of it, we just learn coping skills). I’m honored my writing helped.

  2. We all will reach that point and yes ever since I’ve hit 30 (I’m 35 now) I’ve always had death in the back of my mind (sometimes the front) each year that passes I’m thankful that I can see my children grow a little bit more. I had a dream last week that I was having a heart attack, I couldn’t move or talk and my left arm hurt really bad. I kept waking up in my dream just to have the same thing happen again. When I finally did wake up I was covered in sweat and freaking the he’ll out. The one thing that really scares me is having to take the death journey alone. It reminds me of the movie Jacobs Ladder. When your scared to let go of life you see demons everywhere. If you can accept it those demons turn into angels. However, it scares me a little too much to let go. I feel like there is too many unfinished things in my life to be ready. My family and I have been broke for a good while and we’re barely making it day to day. The worst thing in my mind would be leaving them in such a desperate position. I just got a new jobs and hope things will be turning around for us soon. It sucks having this on my mind all the time but I can’t help it. I’m not sure how to end my ramble here so I will just quote Pink Floyd and be done with it. But yes, I do know how you feel in a way. “Rembert when you were young, you shined like the sun. Now there’s a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.” When I was younger I thought I was invincible, it’s only until you hit a certain age you realize your not. The things in life that you thought made you happy start to loose their meaning. Now I’m just older and twice as confused with my place in life.

  3. I guess it’s sharing time; maybe I need to say something too.

    I always thought I’d be ready to die at any time because I thought I’d embrace the philosophy of living life to its fullest every day. Apparently life had other plans for me.

    I read once about this spiritual practice that says that when you die, you go back home to heaven and you decide what you’re going to experience the next time you live. You decided what joys you’ll have, what challenges you’ll face and then away you go. I wish I believed in that because then at least I know I chose what’s happening to me and I’ll get another chance.

    I have every mental illness known to man pretty much. PTSD at a very young age caused most of the rest i.e. hypochondriasis, OCD, GAD, depression etc. and Brian’s right; it never really goes away.

    This isn’t to say that my life has been bad, it hasn’t for the most part. I’ve had adventures, traveled some, been a writer like I wanted (even a regularly paid one), have friends and family who love me and a husband who for fifteen years has been willing to do literally anything to make me happy.

    Two things plague me, however. I look at myself in the mirror and see the demon of aging every day and it just seems like a preview of coming attractions if you know what I mean, and I wonder if I made a difference.
    I think women have a little extra pressure on them as they age to not age; to reverse the process somehow; to negate it. We’re supposed to show up at our grave looking like we never broke a sweat. This can’t happen no matter what we do. I won the genetic lottery, when I was young I was a bombshell. Now I see time catching up with me and shallow as it may be, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with.

    The worst part of aging though is feeling every day ticking by and wondering if I, with all my sickness and inability to take care of myself, have made a difference in the world. I want to be like Brian; at peace- knowing I’ve taken care of the big stuff. Sure I want to be around to see if I can’t publish my first book, see my godchildren graduate etc. but did I make a difference in the world around me? I’m so sick that some days I can’t get out of bed and I cry all day for a week, but I still write, still publish. I’m a true crime writer. I publish articles on crime prevention and how to cope with being a victim of crime in a magazine dedicated to such things. I chose this to help people. I have also worked a sexual assault crisis line and have talked people down from suicide and helped people report their assaults and catch the perpetrators. I’ve worked at libraries for nineteen years and in that time helped people find books that thrilled them, and helped them. I’ve also worked at a senior’s home and helped seniors who were mostly wheelchair bound learn how to walk again. These things I did all, never for money but because I wanted to help.

    Whoa, long winded post. I will wind down now. In my own musings on living and dying, I hope that I’ve done more living than simply waiting to die but some days, these days I wonder. Maybe I’ve done enough, maybe I should just relax and get well, but I know now from reading Brian’s words that I just need to focus on what will make it be okay when the grim reaper comes calling.

  4. Brian, you really struck a cord with a lot of us today, thank you. And thanks everyone else who shared their private demons. My anxiety issues are constant lately and hearing from others really helped. I wish I could put this fear behind me and move on but sometimes I simply can’t help it. These posts are the best I’ve heard this year so far and it feels good to know that I’m not alone. Thank you again everyone who has posted today, just talking about this stuff helps a lot. I never could relate to the shiny happy people out there buy try to keep it under wraps for the most part for my wife and two kids. Until tomarrow new post I’ll be thinking of you all!

    1. Just take it one day at a time, Kenny. Like Brian said, PTSD, anxiety, or whatever never really leaves, but it can be managed. Find things that take your mind off of everyday life. Read a book, go outside, hell, even write what you’re feeling. I find that, if I keep a journal of how I’m feeling, it usually helps to some extent. It won’t make these feelings go away 100%, but it will help, I promise.

      I hope things start to look up for you and your family, bro. Nothing sucks worse than to feel like you’re not in control of your own life. Keep your head up, man!

      1. Terry, thanks for the kind words! I will keep them in mind forsure. Just trying to stay focused on the important things right now and hopefully things will get where they need to be sooner than later! Thanks again bro!

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