I’ve been thinking about Carrie Fisher, who died a few days after massive heart attack that occurred while flying from London to Los Angeles. Then yesterday, her mother Debbie Reynolds aged 84, died of a stroke. Ms. Reyonld’s son, Todd, apparently said that the strain of Carrie’s death was too much for her.
I’ve been thinking about this not because I knew Carrie Fisher, although like everyone else, I think she rocked Princess Leia, And I’m not thinking about this because of her public struggles with weight (that’s for another time). I’m thinking about this because it’s always such a shock when anyone we know or know of dies. Even though there is one thing that is a hundred percent certain in this life and that is death, we are still shocked. At least, I know I am. I am burbling along in the day, plans are being made, work is being done, playing with dogs is happening and suddenly, wham! Someone I know gets sick, someone I know dies, Carrie Fisher has a heart attack, her mother dies a day after her daughter.
When I heard the news, and after thinking of her family, I thought, “Was Carrie Fisher thinking that she was going to die when she boarded that flight? If she knew she was going to die in a matter of hours, would she have done anything differently?” Ever since I was young and realized to my horror that people died—that they were actually here one minute and gone the next—I’ve been haunted by the inevitability of death and the question of how to live fully. What I’ve noticed in myself is that the thought of my own death is abstract—it’s really hard to imagine myself not here. And it seems that the very thing—the difficulty of imagining ourselves not being here when we are here now—makes us live as if death was not around the corner.
Here’s what I know: even the longest life lasts ten minutes. My 88 year-old-mother tells me she feels like sixteen and can’t believe she is old. (She does look younger than 88, it's true, and that's lovely but she's still on "the back nine of her life" as my step-father says). It’s gone by so fast, she keeps saying. And it has. And it does. Even now, at 65, I can’t quite believe I am this old. in terms of years. So, my ever- constant question is: how do I not miss my life while I am alive? What do I practice daily to bring myself back to the wonders, the magic, the beauty of the day to day (even in the midst of turmoil or chaos or grief). What I know to do is to keep coming back to what I love and take in the good of it. Savor the fact that I have even one good friend. I know to keep death over my shoulder and, as much as possible, to remember that it is not dying that I fear but not living fully. And so, today, I take an aim (and I hope you will take it with me): to not hold back on love. To gush in the presence of natural beauty. To taste every bite. To give my attention to what is here while I am alive. To not miss even one breath.