“Forever I will move like the world that turns beneath me,
And when I lose my direction, I’ll look up to the sky.
And when the black cloak drags upon the ground,
I’ll be ready to surrender, and remember,
We’re all in this together.
If I live the life I’m given, I won’t be scared to die.”
-from “The Once and Future Carpenter” by The Avett Brothers
Warning: self-directed stream of consciousness riff commencing in 5…4…3…2…1…
I don’t really know why, but there’s always been a special place in my heart for great song lyrics. There’s just something about the artful combination of poetry and music that cuts me straight to the bone. When done right, a really great song can pack an emotional gut-punch that will bring you to your knees, sobbing like a broken man.
I’ve been having that experience a lot lately, but never more frequently than when I’m listening to The Avett Brothers’ album “The Carpenter.” There are songs on that disc that absolutely wreck me, including the one quoted above. Especially that last line.
“If I live the life I’m given, I won’t be scared to die.”
The fear of death is a relatively new feeling for me. When I left the religion of my former life, I also left behind the comfort of the promise of living forever. Yeah, I know: believing that you’ll live forever is immature. I know that now. But there was a time when eternal life was one of my core beliefs, so much so that my own mortality and the thought of dying never really crossed my mind.
Then came the day when it dawned on me that leaving behind my old religion also meant leaving behind the promise of living forever. The realization that I was going to die someday hit me like a ton of bricks. Mind you, I was 39 years old, what some would consider the halfway mark; coming to grips with my mortality with half of my life behind me really fucked with my head.
But then something unexpected started to happen: for the first time in my life I started to live on purpose. If it was all going to end some day, with no idea or guarantee of what was going to happen next, I was going to waste as few minutes as possible on things that held no meaning. Time suddenly became my most valuable resource, and I became determined to spend it as wisely as possible.
I’m starting to realize the truth of those lyrics, but at the moment I’m still very much afraid to die. There are so many adventures and experiences to cram in, so many places to go and people to love, that I can’t imagine it all ending. I’m getting closer, though, and that’s important.
The possibility of imminent death is a constant reminder to “suck the marrow out of life,” to live the life I’ve been given so fully that, when the end finally does come, I can say I’m ready.