I saw a couple of things recently on social media which made me stop and think. I saw the first one yesterday. I was on the bus on the way to work and just happened to check Facebook. There was a message from the profile of the editor of an Autism magazine which was presumably from one of his family stating that he had passed away suddenly. I am never prepared for death but this was particularly shocking, and is characteristic of social media that one becomes closer and more familiar with other people I would otherwise not really have a lot to do with. I felt very sad for the editor and his family. I didn;t know what to do. The first thing which struck me after the shock of the news was that the editor had asked me for five articles for upcoming editions of the magazine and I wondered what I would do with the three articles I have already written. As is customary in these sorts of situations, my primary response was inappropriate – I mean who cares about some articles I had written and what I would do with them? In the magnitude of death, my articles were kind of irrelevant. But I am not in control of how my mind reacts to things. Yesterday evening I tried to find put about the editor’s family. I really didn’t know him and we had only met through social media but I felt the need to help out his partner, kids or anyone else who might have been severely impacted.
It was a strange kind of grief because I didn’t know the man as a friend. I had never met him and all I knew about him was his Autism world activities but I felt really sad and cheated of his company and of the opportunity to get to know him. Death is something I don’t really cope with, be it of a friend or family member or even thinking about my own mortality. Death sort of leaves an abrupt stop in the flow of things. You want to continue the conversation but you can’t.
The other thing I saw on social media was related but different. I have a relative in the UK who has a son who very sadly has become involved in criminal activity in recent years. The young man is now 22 and spent his birthday in prison. My relative posted this on social media today and I could feel some of his heartbreak and disappointment in circumstances from the other side of the world. I responded to his post and said what a shame that people in prison get so many services to assist them which would have been much more usefully applied before they got in trouble. I also reflected that my 23rd, 24th and 25th birthdays were spend in prison and that I am an example that lives can change.
I’m not sure what the message for this post is. It’s more a reflection on things which occur and my wish to change things for everyone. I know logically that I will die and that I have a limited time here on Earth but it’s very rarely that I think about this. The death of the editor brought home to me that we can cease to exist as suddenly as a heartbeat and the longest we will be around is still an insignificant figure when compared against history, This thought fills me with terror but it also inspires me. Because I will not be around for long, I have a need to make things better, to make an impact on the world in a positive sense. This is urgent and I need to do as much as possible while I can.
Which brings me back to my relative’s son and my own time effectively wasting my precious years. As a forty-something woman who prides herself on understanding life from the perspectives of others, I have begun to reflect on just what Hell my choices as a twenty-something woman put my family and those close to me through. I look at the terrible, self-destructive and self-defeating things I did and can feel my mum and dad’s devastation and despair. And I now hate that I did this to people close to me. It certainly wasn’t intended to upset people, I was just in a very dark place, but now I see what it might have felt like for my anxious mother to see her daughter in jail or for my sensitive father to see me make every mistake in the book.
I have thought for a long time what a good thing it was I didn’t die in my twenties, statying in that dark universe of negativity forever. And there were certainly many times I could have died. The fact that I came through it, despite the heavily-stacked odds against me doing so, has always been a great comfort to me. I suppose my five years in the Hell of prison and self-destruction was almost like a death for me. If one looks at it like that, I suppose I am in heaven now, and it often feels that way. I really feel for my relative and his family going through the stress and pain of having a child in prison, but in reality he is not dead. There is always hope. And I think that until the day I actually do die, I shall say that to all the people in the world. I know its a cliche but where there is life there is hope.