The Importance of Walking Up the Hill

I have a slight anxiety about dying. It started a few years ago, mostly when I drove to work in the morning. I'd go from singing along to the radio, to contemplating the best place to find a parking spot to being painfully stricken with the thought that someday I'm going to die. It could be in five minutes or 50 years, but it's going to happen and what's it going to be like? Will I be scared? Will I know? Will it hurt? Will I be bored? My breath shortened and usually I'd start to cry and then the thought would be gone and I'd be back to the parking space search. I confessed the panic attacks to a friend in an email and her reply was, "You should be glad you have time to worry about this. The rest of us are worried about money, jobs and what the hell to do with our lives, let alone what to do when it's over." Not the warm, fuzzy support email I wanted, but nevertheless, she had a good point. The attacks started once I felt secure in life and at a time when I started to be happy and thankful for all I had around me: a wonderful husband, a loving family, a great home and a positive career path. I felt I had just started to live! How sad if it were taken away.

I haven't embraced the concept of death and moved on with my life. Actually, the fear has only escalated. Now, with a child, I have that much more to lose. Watching my child (and future children) grow into adulthood is my life's ambition. Watching my husband continue to succeed and share this crazy life with him is more than I could have hoped for. But then again, if I die before this all happens, will I "know" what I've missed? Will I be able to "watch from above", a non-physical bystander?

Two nights ago after dinner, we all went for a walk up the hill behind our house. Our neighbor's property is idyllic in every UpState New York way. Caroline now sees everything around her and pointed to the small, white moon in the sky and clapped her hands and pointed at the geese flying to the pond. She rolled in the grass and sighed as the wind blew softly on her cheeks. And in a moment of total, pure bliss, we both held one of her hands and walked back down the hill to our house. She, swiveling her head from one of us to the other, smiling and giggling and we, silently delighting in this event that five years ago we had no idea would make us so very happy.

Life. Life is mysterious. Life happens so fast. I thank all the parents out there who have reminded me of this and I remember. I remember to hold her just a little tighter, a little longer, to smell her hair and laugh a little harder. I remember to dance and be silly, to sing a song really loud and leave the dishes in the sink until after our post-dinner walk. And, while I may be tired when I wake up at 5:31 (yep, every day, like clock work) I'm more excited to round the corner and see that little person waiting for her morning hug from me. That's one more lucky day, one more wonderful morning I've been given.

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