If I Die Before I Wake

Comments 58

I think about dying sometimes.

I think about dying because sometimes people die.

I can’t decide how afraid of it I am. I tend to feel a little afraid of any situation in which I have no prior experience, or am missing a lot of information and don’t know what to expect. So I guess I’m a little bit afraid to die, which I like better than three years ago when being awake hurt so much that staying alive too long feeling that way seemed much scarier.

One of the worst things about being a divorced, single father is that there’s no one around to document life with my son. My little second-grader, thankfully, has several family members on his mom’s side who he sees pretty regularly.

But because we live far from my extended family, and I’ve been single for three years, there’s this huge chunk of my son’s life that only exists in his memory and mine. If I die today, he’ll only have a few pieces of visual evidence documenting our life together.

He curled up next to me on the couch last night. He wanted to look at old photos of him and us. Even though I’m an infrequent Facebook user, it’s still my largest repository of old photos.

It’s a time warp, because there’s close to nothing from the past three years.

If you judged and measured my life in terms of Facebook activity, it’s not hard to see the world turned upside-down in 2010, and stayed that way. My son didn’t recognize some of his friends from today because they were so young in the photos.

We got to Fourth of July photos from 2010.

“Look dad! That’s when mommy still came with us when we go to visit grandpa’s,” he said.

“That’s right, bud. You’ll see mommy in a lot of these photos,” I said. “See? There you both are. Look at that face.”

“That was one of my happiest years.”

“What do you mean?”

“When I was 3, and mommy still lived here.”

That sort of thing used to make me cry. I’m tougher now.

“Do you remember when mommy still lived here?”

“Yeah. I remember.”

We flipped back to Christmas 2009. There was a photo of him standing in the middle of my in-law’s old living room, a place he spent much of his first three years before the whole world changed.

“Where is that, dad?”

“Are you serious? You don’t know where that is?”

“I just don’t really remember,” he said.

I think about his grandfather—my father-in-law—all the time. We lost him unexpectedly one day, and some of us went into an involuntary tailspin afterward.

I don’t presume to know what happens after we die, but if it’s possible for him to peek in on his grandson, I know he is. He was an awesome grandpa.

I wonder what he thinks of me. Maybe he feels like I failed his daughter, and considers me a major disappointment. Maybe he hears me sometimes when I get upset with his grandson, and wishes he could tell me to chill out and maintain perspective.

You know?

Because we’re all going to die one day. And really? Who gives a shit about a few crumbs on the dining room floor?

Sometimes, I think about dying in my sleep.

I hope my son is with his mom if that happens any time soon.

She and I rely on mobile phones to communicate with each other. Sometimes when one of us is particularly busy and distracted, or we have our phones plugged in and away from us, the other worries that something bad might have happened after we don’t get responses to texts, or our calls go unanswered.

If enough hours go by, I start concocting potentially terrifying stories and possible explanations in my head, because that’s what I do sometimes in the absence of facts.

At my son’s age, even though he’d be really upset and afraid, I think he’d be able to use my phone to reach his mom. I think he knows to go to the neighbors for help in an emergency.

I hope he’ll be okay.

I hope my life choices didn’t add up to a freakish moment where a young child has to face the body of his dead father and try to figure out what to do next, and then not even have very many photos of our good times together to look through afterward.

I worry about my parents. I don’t call them enough, so maybe they secretly think I don’t love and appreciate them as much as I do.

I worry about my family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. I hope they know what they mean to me. They probably don’t. It’s probably my fault. But I hope they guess correctly.

I worry about you. Most of you won’t care or notice. But some of you will. If you’re still reading this meandering, self-indulgent post, you’re probably someone who cares. You’re probably someone who might notice when the updates simply stop. Hopefully by design. But maybe not. Maybe one day there just won’t be any more heartbeats. Then, no more posts. And maybe some of you will wonder what happened. Maybe some people will think I quit, or ran out of words.

Maybe some of you will guess correctly that I died, and be frustrated that there may never be a way to know for sure.

I might not die today. I probably won’t, since I’ve never died any of the other days I’ve been alive. But maybe I will. Maybe this is the day the top of the hourglass runs dry. That’s the point, really. We never know.

If I’m out of time, what is it that needs to be said, and to whom?

Is that really worth feeling upset over?

Shouldn’t the things people think about in their final moments be the things we put most of our focus on?

I think so.

I hope this isn’t the last thing I ever write. That they don’t find the plates I left in the sink. The stack of mail on my desk. The unmade bed. The unfinished Pinewood Derby car on the bench downstairs.

The last father-son project. Unfinished, like this life.

We probably don’t wake up one day feeling ready to die—feeling like we got it all right, and accomplished all we set out to do.

Maybe the best we can do is whatever’s in front of us today.

Offering to help.

Forgiving them.

Forgiving ourselves.

Trying hard.

Loving harder.

Choosing hope.

Choosing courage.

If I knew this was the last thing I would ever write, I would finish with a note to my son (Love you, kid.):

Thinking about dying is only awesome if you use it as motivation to take nothing for granted. I did many bad things. But I always chose hope, and it has never failed me. I hope you will, too.

I don’t spend most of my life thinking about dying. I promise.

I spend most of it thinking about living.

I spend most of it thinking about living because sometimes people really live.

Be one of them.

58 thoughts on “If I Die Before I Wake”

  1. 20 years ago when I was going into surgery I wrote my (then 4 year old son) a note because I worried I would die and he wouldn’t remember life with his mom. I then continued writing to him after that so I could chronicle for him all his cute stories. I do the same now for my younger two..I have journals for each of them where I am describing to them their personalities and quirks…stories I may forget as as we all age and forget things. I was sad that this all started out of a fear/worry of death but ended up happy that their stories are more a celebration of their lives.

    Good post..although it made me feel incredibly sad, I liked how you turned it around at the end.

    1. That’s kind of an amazing idea.

      Capturing the little details in words that photos, and even video, never could.

      I wish I was disciplined enough or magically had the time and resources to hit the Life pause button every time something strikes me and write it down.

      Back when I was a newspaper reporter, I would never go anywhere with at least two pens and something to write on.

      And now I’m out of that habit.

      This would be a good reason to change that.

      RE: turning it around at the end… There are a handful of posts I think I’ve ended semi-bleakly after a couple drinks and the worst-imaginable days. (A long time ago.)

      But that’s really life, isn’t it? Turning it around at the end?

      I’ve said it a bunch of times because it’s true: There’s nothing better than a good redemption story.

    2. Such a good idea. My sister, as a speech therapist, kept records of all her children’s early lives and I so envy her for having the sense and the stamina to keep them going. They are gorgeous.

    1. I hope so, Leslie. He has an excellent mother, and a dad who tries really hard. His affection for us is not in doubt. He’s a great kid.

  2. Really really good. It’s just another part of the human condition, and you are approaching it with the eyes of a dad. It’s tough doing it alone. It’s harder when you feel there’s so much you still need to do. Breathe deep, because today you can really live. ?

    1. Perhaps the most underrated life advice in world history, because we all do it constantly, so no one thinks about it.

      But we so rarely do it correctly.

      Breathe in. Hold it. Slow exhale. In through the nose. Out through the mouth.

      Over and over again.

      It’s where we find ourselves, achieve balance, and nourish the parts of us biology class can’t explain.

      Thank you for the important reminder.

  3. Death really does help us put our lives in perspective. It should make us humble and kind and remind us that we are accountable for the days we have been given. Unfortunately most of us spend our time either trying to deny death or obsessing over it. I like how you are using it as a reality check and as a reminder to live life intentionally.

    1. Thank you, Taylor.

      That’s exactly right. A reality check.

      If I die, or my partner dies, or my child dies, or my co-worker dies, or my neighbor dies, or this person I’m angry with dies, what is it that I really want to accomplish first?

      How do I want to impact them and remember my time with them?

      How much of this really matters?

      Life’s too short to spend it angry and hurting. People like to roll their eyes because they think it’s spiritual or a bunch of hippie psychobabble.

      Maybe they think it’s “weak.” It’s HARD to love when it requires forgiving and swallowing pride. It take enormous courage and strength to be kind, and choose peace when we’re angry or wounded.

      But if we never forgot that an aneurysm and stroke, or heart failure could literally happen any second, maybe everything would get along better, hurt less, and enjoy life more.

      Hard to say, since so few people try doing it that way.

  4. Matt, since you have a smart phone, use the camera to take pictures of your son and yourself. It’s not hard, they erase if awful and you then have some record of you and your son.

    1. bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit

      I do this Mary… The kids and I take as many as we can. I often encourage them as well to take photos of myself or of each other. IF ever something happened to any of us, we will be glad to have had them.

      I lost my brother in early 2011 and so wish we had more photos. We took a photo of all five of us siblings together at my place and I gave a copy to each of them in a frame for xmas just a couple of years prior. My brother passed in his bed. That photo was on his headboard. Was comforting to know he kept us close every night and that we were “there” when he took his last breaths.

    2. I do sometimes, Mary. You’re right.

      It’s more the candid moments I’m talking about, though. Those captured moments of, just, life happening.

      It takes a third person, and it takes a third person who is thoughtful about photo taking.

      Not only am I not a third person, but I also forget to pull the camera out most of the time. 🙂

      Thank you very much for reading.

    1. Thank you, Lisa. I’m glad I’m alive too. Very nice of you to say. I mean that much more sincerely than this one-paragraph reply might convey. I really appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment.

  5. bygeorgeithinkyou'vegotit

    This post really got to me. Brought tears to my eyes because I’ve often been in that position of being awake seeming much scarier than dying. I think of my kids first, and this helps me snap out of it. I still struggle with it though from time to time as the breakup is still pretty new, but it was a lot worse when I lived with him.

    I try hard to remind myself that there are better days ahead. By living every moment of the day with that choice. That choice to care. That choice to live in harmony. To extend gratitude. To smile…

    Thank you Matt. 🙂

    1. The good things that happen to us could have never happened unless life worked out exactly as it did.

      The good and beautiful things that will happen to us in the future can’t happen unless right now happens exactly as it is.

      Might as well look forward to those good and beautiful things. Seems wasteful to squander the opportunity to enjoy the anticipation of future great things.

  6. Dying when my kids are young is one of the things that scares me the most, even more so now that I’m divorced. I don’t have the good, functional relationship with my ex that you do. Sometimes I think about what would happen if I died and he was left to raise them the rest of the way. What kind of people would they be? Would they stay (mostly) kind, compassionate, and curious or would they be sucked into the vortex of small minded negativity that seems to permeate their dad’s life? How much would they remember if their memories were constantly being filtered through the mean things he feels like it’s okay to say about me to and in front of the kids? Would he allow them to maintain relationships with my family? I know my family would certainly try. Would he help them get the tools they need to process the loss of a parent? And so on and so forth. There are so many scary aspects of this hopefully hypothetical situation. While I try not to let the immensity of all that unknown limit me, it makes me think more carefully about taking unnecessary risks. I don’t skydive or ride motorcycles without a helmet, stuff like that.
    Over the past few years I’ve made a solid effort to be in more pictures with my kids too. I’m really not in many during their younger years; I was always the one behind the camera and don’t much like pictures of myself. But now it’s just different. I want to be present in the memories of the fun we have and the milestones they reach. I want my kids to remember that I was there too…even if my prescence is memoralized by arm’s length selfies with them. At least there will be that.

    1. That’s what little man and I have been reduced to. The occasional selfie, or a photo from a rare family or holiday gathering.

      Good for you for being more aware of it. Maybe I can do a better job, too.

  7. Poignant and powerful, Matt. You nailed it in there somewhere too, most of us don’t really fear dying, we fear the living. That’s where the pain is.

    Also, you worry too much. Does worry add a single day to our lives? Of course not. Stop worrying, everything always comes out in the wash. All will be well.

    “Who gives a shit about a few crumbs on the dining room floor?”

    I beg you to wrap this one around yourself, post it on the fridge, because I did and I managed to raise four kids without too many of those overkill, over reactions, that we come to regret. Besides, you’ll have a teen-ager soon and oh boy, you gotta learn to let the crumbs go.

    Death isn’t the end, but I think you already know that. 😉

    1. If everyone was capable of seeing a mess their child made, or a fight they were having with a partner, or some disagreement with a friend or family member through the prism of hindsight from their future selves, there just wouldn’t be very much screaming and yelling and anger and pain.

      It would be nice to be able to process all that while our internals are going haywire in life’s next stressful moment.

      1. Yes, but Matt, we cannot. Hindsight is 20/20, but we all have limited hindsight. That is what is at the root of much of our anxiety and worry, we try to do better before we KNOW better. A better strategy is to forgive ourselves our failures, past, present, and future. We are not supposed to have all the answers at just the right time, we are supposed to be on a journey of learning. Anxiety, worry can be summed up as too much past and future in our present. We really have to learn how to be present in the moment and breath it all in. Otherwise we create un-needed stress for ourselves.

  8. For some reason, this is a subject that’s entered my life a lot lately. I had a really rough week last week (post going up about that on Wednesday – two unexpected, young deaths) – and today I happened to be watching Frasier reruns and the episode about someone who died suddenly at age 42 was on.


    I’m not sure. I’m sort of peeking out behind laced fingers, afraid to see.

    But in the meantime, I’m trying to transmit positive energy into the universe where I used to interject anger. (I’m a slow learner with a sharp tongue, so admittedly it’s a process.) 🙂

    1. We walk around oblivious most of the time. I think maybe we just don’t like to deal with it, so our brains auto-focus on everything else. I don’t think obsessing about death is a super-smart way to live or anything.

      But if we could wake up mindfully aware that we, or anyone we know or encounter could be living their final day, I think we’d all feel a lot better about our behavior.

      Or more simply: We’d all feel a lot better.

    1. Thank you so much. There’s always the chance you thought all the other ones were really terrible, so I don’t want to make any assumptions.

      But this sounded nice, so I’ll guess that you meant it that way. 😉

      Many thanks for reading and taking time to comment!

      1. Hahahahaha. I enjoy many of your posts, but to be honest, I didn’t find the dishes post (your most popular) as special as everyone else thought. But that’s just my opinion. And I do apologize. I guess it didn’t really talk to me personally where it talked to others who’ve been in that situation. But that’s besides the point. I write stuff that not many people can relate to. It’s normal. But this post talked to me. It’s a topic that I think of. And I truly enjoyed reading it so thank you 🙂

        1. You’re not alone. The dishes post wasn’t anything special. It didn’t even cover new territory. It was just me saying the same thing in a different way, and I guess a lot of people related to it.

          I’m not the right guy to place value judgments on the crap I write. I think it’s as valuable or worthless as another person decides it is.

          But if I DID have to pick out the “best” stuff (for me), that wouldn’t have been it.

          I also listen to a lot of music by artists who don’t get nearly as much airplay as all the Grammy winners who everyone loves and listens to.

          So maybe I just have shitty taste. (Probably not, though!)

  9. I’ve enjoy reading your post. You worry too much. You know worry is like a rocking chair, it goes back and forth but never gets you anywhere!
    I love the vision I had of you and your son curled up on the couch reminiscing. I hope you are taking tons of photos of you and him doing what you do when you have him. I regret that I didn’t do that more with my three when I was in the same situation as you are.

    1. Thank you, Anna. I DO worry too much. It’s one of my defining characteristics.

      I’m not entirely sure how to shut that off. It’s one of my ADHD skills.

      I can think of every possible bad thing that can happen before I do anything. And because negative emotions are felt more powerfully than positive emotions, I stress about the unknown because of all the bad things that might happen more often than I joyfully await all the good things that are equally likely to happen.

      I’m an optimist by nature and tend to focus on the good and positive, but when something is completely unknown, I’m generally more worried about the potential negative consequences than I should be.

      I’m fully aware that I do this and that it’s bad.

      Everything’s a process. 🙂

      1. I can so relate to that… I was recently diagnosed with ADD and now a lot of things fall into place. My constant overwhelming worries about anything and everything, sleepless nights thinking about things that can/might/did go wrong. My glass is always half-empty.

        A lot of people see me as a strong person that can get through anything that life throws at me, as an optimist and a fighter, but deep inside I am scared of everything. Scared to live but also scared to die. I do not think of suicide but sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to just not wake up one day.
        I have 2 beautiful little children that are the centre of my life now, also a grown up daughter and grandchild. I couldn’t possibly leave them, but sometimes i have a voice in my head – am I good enough for them? maybe they are better off without me. It takes some effort to not let my kids see me with tears in my eyes, and I worry that they feel it anyway, I worry how that will affect them.

  10. I have to admit, I’m ready to meet my maker. I have been for a long number of years. He is faithful to his promises, despite my own flaws. So I don’t see anything to fear in death. I don’t just “believe in” God. I believe God. But my children (and now one grandson too) ground me here. For so long as he sees fit to allow me to care for them and be a part of their lives I will do the job and be thankful for it.

    1. Peaceful, humble acceptance of our eventual death in a Thy Will Be Done capacity seems like a pretty solid place to be psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.

      I certainly hope I get there some day.

      Thank you very much for reading.

  11. This hits really close to home since my ex-husband passed away unexpectedly a couple weeks ago at the age of 42. He didn’t wake up that day knowing what would happen, even though he’d been fighting tough health issues since Christmas. It’s odd to know that you’re suddenly the only parent your child has. It also makes you really want to stick around for a long time so she isn’t left alone. Not that I didn’t want to live a long life before, but now there’s one more reason to do everything I can to make sure I do.

    1. Wow. Kind of speechless.

      I can’t begin to imagine the depths of conflicting emotion that might arise from the loss of an ex, especially when there’s a child to help through the process of healing a wound that never fully closes.

      Sending you, your child, and I’m sure a ton of people in your personal life affected by his passing, my thoughts and prayers.

      Thank you for sharing that very personal story with us.

  12. I really hope you are ok. Please remember everything in life comes and goes in waves. Sometimes at my darkest points I could never imagine anything being good again but somehow it came good. Where there is life there is hope. While it’s sad that your son is feeling upset about you not living with your wife, he would be far sadder not having his daddy to share those feelings with. He obviously loves you so much and feels safe opening up to you. Will be thinking of you

    1. Did I sound like I was standing too close to the ledge? 🙂

      My apologies. I didn’t mean to write in that tone. Thank you for caring. I’m totally okay. In fact, I’m legitimately well.

      I lived a relatively long time in misery. I’ll never again take for granted waking up in the morning, knowing something great might happen, and that I can, just, breathe, and be present in whatever I’m doing without the constant backdrop of anger/fear/sadness/anxiety, etc.

      It’s horrible. Horrible isn’t even a strong-enough word.

      And I needed to live that way to learn empathy. I needed every hard day where dying didn’t seem all that scary because of how being alive felt to learn to appreciate what another person might think and feel.

      I’m still a selfish person. But now I’m better at knowing when to choose unselfishness because of how much I want to help someone I care about not feel that way anymore.

      It’s one of life’s most valuable lessons. And even though it sucked very, very badly, I’m grateful that I get to be a better person moving forward for having lived it.

      I appreciate you worrying about me.

      I’m hopeful. Always. Annoyingly so. I know I come off like Motivational Speaker Guy sometimes, and most people don’t want to hear that shit when they’re in the middle of a tough time.

      Who I’d maybe like to be is someone who could help a person feel a little better without sounding like Motivational Speaker guy.

      I’m not always good at all the things I wish I was.

  13. Beautiful post! Yes it is scary, yet it is an important thought for it makes us think in our lives, in a flash, what really matters the most. And how we’d like to leave things behind. That we still do think about those friends we have left far behind in life and wonder if they do the same too.

    Like you mentioned at one point, about your followers wondering what happened to you if you are indeed gone, I totally relate to that, because I’ve wondered about some awesome authors too who once published such wonderful write-ups and now it’s been years since they posted their last. The world of blogging is after all just like the real world where some people do notice the absence and some don’t. Only there’s no way to confirm the doubts.

    1. Maybe I won’t die for a super-long time, and it’s an entirely moot point.

      Fingers crossed!

      Thank you so much for reading this and taking time to comment.

  14. The picture part got to me. It is really true. Pictures are so great to have after a loved one is gone. When my dad passed in 2007 (I was 23) my brother’s and I had a hard time trying to locate a good picture of my dad for his obituary. We aren’t the most picture taking family. The most current one we had was one I had taken when I was 10. With my hot pink 35mm camera. My dad didn’t really like to have his picture taken, and us being the good kids we were honored that. That was stupid. lol Luckily, my parents after their divorce when I was younger, had stayed really good friends. The majority of photos we have of him actually came from my mom. It is really comforting to be able to pull out those old photos and look through them when I miss him. Especially the ones from when I was little, when passing time has made those memories fuzzy.

    A couple of years ago I was watching a video of one of my kids when they were toddlers. As per my dad’s request I made sure he wasn’t caught on camera even though we were at his house. Out of nowhere, in the background clear as day, you can hear my dad make some sarcastic corny joke. Now its one of the greatest sounds to me. Since all of that, I changed my perspective. I no longer bail out on my picture being taken, even when I look a hot mess. I try to be better at taking pictures of myself and my kids. Just me and each one, and all of us together as often as I remember. I won’t deny my children, my friends, or my family the comfort of a memento of our time together. If its a bad picture, who cares? When I am gone, my attractiveness in the photo won’t be what’s important nor what they are looking at. (That’s not to say that I don’t secretly hope that they say- oh she usually looked much better and less like something a cat dragged in lol) I will allow myself to be video recorded in all my silly and weird moments. One day those pictures and videos will mean the world to someone.

    1. There’s a lot of poignant, meaningful personal experiences in here that I think a lot of people can understand, even if they haven’t dealt with a super-close family loss yet.

      Thank you so much for sharing that.

      When we deal with life trauma, we tend to come out the other side less fearful, or at least more courageous. Because we have important perspective that we didn’t have before.

      So, yeah. Take the photo. Go on the walk. Dance with your wife. Hold her damn hand even when you irrationally care what strangers might think about it. Listen to our childrens hopes and dreams and treat them like they’re important instead of like the whimsical ramblings of a silly little kid who doesn’t know anything.

      Those are the things that matter.

  15. I think about dying sometimes too, not a lot, but, you know, sometimes. And I think I’m ok with it. I mean, I wanna live some more if I can, I still have a lot of really great things I’d like to do, but I really feel like if I were to die tomorrow, I’d die complete. I did the best I could with each day and it will have to be enough, you know? *shrugs* I don’t know…hard to explain…

    1. My parents and coaches and teachers all used to say: “As long as you do your best, we’re going to be proud of you!!!”

      And I’d roll my eyes, because anything less than whatever my goal was in football or basketball or golf or track or the competition or the test score or whatever felt like a failure to me.

      I do have one of those annoying achievement bugs buzzing around my head all the time.

      I was sitting on my father’s couch once. I was 21 and sitting next to the girl I would eventually marry. We weren’t even officially dating yet.

      Gosford Park was on the TV. I didn’t like it even though it was a Best Picture nom.

      We were ignoring it and talking about the future.

      “What do you want to be?” she asked.

      “I don’t know,” I said. (Truthfully. And still don’t.) “But I know what I don’t want to be: a failure.”

      I don’t know why I remember that conversation from 15 years ago. It’s not something I’ve ever talked about before.

      I didn’t have direction. No sense of focus. Just a general idea that I didn’t want to fail.

      And then, of course, I failed. At all the things that mattered.

      Life lesson: Know where you want to go. Know who you want to be. Very specifically.

      And the rest of the time, the only thing you can do is your best. Your God’s honest best possible effort to achieve whatever that thing is.

      I should have respected “giving it your best” when I was younger. I’m super-proud of my son when I can tell he gave it all he could. And I understand how he feels when the results are not what he’d hoped.

      Maybe if we just do our best 51% of our lives, we get to die mostly regret-free. That’d be awesome.

      I, for one, am really happy you embrace mortality with a peaceful heart and mind.

      That’s the litmus test, right?

      I think that means you’re winning at Life. Which is pretty kick-ass, I think.

      1. When my rockstar son (the middle one with ADHD) was little and I used to ask him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he’s say, “Famous”.

        1. I hope he got over that.

          Can you think of something more fickle, more punishing, less meaningful, and less rewarding than that?

          Hell, wealth doesn’t even do much for us on the Things That Bring Us Joyomometer, but a shit-ton of money would be a hell of a lot better than “fame.”

          Not that my opinion matters.

  16. what a sweet post….thanks. I write notes to my kids all the time and then stash them in weird places…not intentionally. I just have good intentions to organize them all but never do. It’ll be a treasure hunt when I die, I’m sure.

    Although, this post did remind me. You have a plan to let us know if you die, right? cuz, that would stink for a lot of us.

    1. Maybe someday, there will be some special procedure someone will execute on my behalf in the event of my untimely passing.

      But, thus far, there is no such plan in place.

      If I totally disappear for, I don’t know, two weeks? Until further notice of an intentional change in my posting frequency, I think if that happens, you can safely assume I’m a goner.

  17. Please teach your son to call 911! If he finds you unresponsive but not dead yet–or if he finds himself in any other emergency situation with or without you–he’ll be able to get help far more quickly and reliably than if he calls his mom or goes over to the neighbor’s house. Talk about it in terms of “helpers” coming, which is reassuring rather than scary: If something incapacitates your responsible adult, you can call this magic number and get helpers to come within minutes! If you have no landline phone, try to keep your cell in a consistent place so he’d be able to find it if needed.

    Also, 7 is not too young to learn some basic first aid. I was fascinated by the first aid section in my Girl Scout handbook and studied it for hours. I grew up in a two-parent home, but my mom was out shopping the day my dad cut his hand badly on the hedge trimmer. When she came home, I had him lying on the floor with the hand elevated and my brother applying direct pressure while I read a story to calm our nerves. 🙂

    For me, fear of dying is not about what would happen to me (I believe that God will take good care of me) but about what I’ve left undone. My partner and I need to update our wills to account for my daughter…who is now almost 2…but keep not getting around to it. What if we die simultaneously and her big brother inherits everything? Sure, he’d probably take care of her, and so would my brother as my executor, but how would she feel when she was older and discovered that we hadn’t bothered to leave her anything? Ugh, we’ve got to get to that! There are always more fun things to do….

  18. I found this poignant, so thank you. I recently had an experience where cancer took my former father-in-law. My relationship with him was such that, even though my former wife and I are not together in marriage and we didn’t have children, I’m still very much part of that family.
    Divorce sucks (everything you’ve written about it is spot-on), but it isn’t always the end of a relationship. My former wife and I still root for each other and want each other to be happy. There isn’t bitterness or animosity. A big reason for that is the love we have for each other’s family (and frankly each other, just not in a romantic spousal way).
    So I was there with her her when her father died. His head in my hands as he took his last breath. The last words he spoke to me directly were “I love you.” I’m in his obituary as his son – not even son-in-law. My takeaway from that situation was more affirmation than grief. This man taught me how to die with dignity – with love in his heart even for someone who was no longer technically family. When I go, I hope it’s with the same kind of compassion and earnestness he exhibited in his final days.
    I think love can be demonstrated in all kinds of ways, not the least of which through the relationships that are bolstered by love, hope and courage. Even in blended families, those virtues can very much exist.
    Keep up the good work, friend.

  19. That Squirrel Again

    You know what can help the worry…and will be right down your alley?

    Write your obituary.

    Not a bland one like you get in most daily papers (Must B. Thistalltoride, Dish-Washing Scofflaw, Dead at 44), but one of the juicy ones such as run in UK papers like the Telegraph where the protagonist rescued a group of missionaries from an undiscovered tribe of cannibals in Papua New Guinea, then returned home to discover the cure for baldness, teach Hoyt Wilhelm the knuckleball, and play bass for Wilson Pickett on his first tour of Europe.

    Lay it all out there: heroism, failures, embellishments, the whole sordid glorious mess.

    Then write another one every few years or so. Put ’em all in a place where posterity will find them and share them with the world and this blog.

  20. I really like this entry. I’m a worrier – so I totally get you. At times it does get out of hand, but for the most part I seem to keep it under control. Death is one of those subjects that does worry me some especially since I have two kids and a husband. The picture thing I also get too- I actually started taking selfies with me and the kids together about a year ago because I almost always seem to be the one taking the pictures and I’m never in them and no one other than my Mom thinks to take one with me in them! Thank you for your insight into your life- it’s very interesting and very relatable. Keep up the good work!

  21. This was really touching and so true. As a single mom to a two-year old, I often think what would happen to my son if something suddenly happens to me at home. My ex is usually around at his convenience, so how would my son be taken care of at that split second. I suppose we just need to have faith and as you said – continue living.

  22. just found your blog I to worried about dying and not leaving my kids any memories you know just incase something crazy happens. I started a journal of sorts when I was pregnant with my 1st and did the same for 2nd. It is just a spiral notebook with pictures glued/ taped thoughts, crazy things they did, pictures of us lots of selfies in recent years esp. on the college tour trips with my son, school projects, artwork, things they’ve said, sports photos. one things a lot of us parent’s did on the sports front was we all carried cameras and took pictures of everyone on the sports teams or event we too some of the best pictures I have of us together are from other parents we down loaded them to a shared site. Maybe you can do something like this. When I started this I figured I would give it to my son on his 18th birthday…. but that was just a few months ago, then I said when he graduated now that graduation is fast approaching there are still so many memories we are making together… I don’t think I will be ready to give it to him them either, may college graduation 🙂 I also write them an letter on their birthdays each year in the journal. I share the good, bad and the ugly in the yearly letter. my oldest got a kick when I reminded him of performance of I’m sexy and I know it at the lake one summer, which to this day he still denies said there is no video therefore no proof. good luck with 2nd grade I’m living it with my youngest now 🙂

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top
Matt Fray

Get my latest writing!

Sign up for my free weekly email newsletter as I continue an on-going exploration of love and relationships.
%d bloggers like this: