I fear death. So, there it is, in black and white. It’s not incomprehensible that I’m afraid of death. My father passed away when I was 14 and only recently I found out what the real impact was of that event. I think most of the world’s population fears death, but we don’t talk about it much. For a lot of people death is abstract, elusive. Even for a believer like me. Don’t get me wrong, my faith was and is a great source of comfort in times of death. And yet I am and remain a human being, one with a broken heart of a father who is missed.
At the same time, my father’s death taught me many valuable things. The most important is how precious our time is. I have a personal aversion to people who say, “I’m going to go all-out, work hard, make a lot of money in the coming years so I can retire early. Then I can enjoy my hard work and relax”. Because in my experience, what if you don’t make it? What if you die before you reach retirement age? Like my father, who was 55 when he died. That’s why I have an aversion to a “I’ll enjoy life when I’m retired”-attitude. Because I know from experience that you’re not sure you’re gonna make it to retirement. That’s why it’s better to live today as if every day matters.
Grateful to be vulnerable. That sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? Vulnerability is not something that we often celebrate. And I think that’s a shame. Why do we sometimes experience a mental block? Do we realise that when we let fear guide us, we’re keeping ourselves away from luck?
Bréne Brown has been a massive inspiration for me in this regard, partly because she’s – like me – a scientist. She specialised in research into human shame. She writes in the book ’The gifts of imperfection’: “Joy and gratitude can be very vulnerable and intense experiences. We are an anxious people and many of us have very little tolerance for vulnerability. Our anxiety and fear can manifest as scarcity. We think to ourselves:
I’m not going to allow myself to feel this joy because I know it won’t last.
Acknowledging how grateful I am is an invitation for disaster.
I’d rather not be joyful than have to wait for the other shoe to drop.”
Last week was the anniversary of my dads death. He passed away at the age of 55, when I was 14 years old. A few years ago I started processing my delayed grief, which is commonly caused by the inability to process the loss of a parent at a young age. During my grieving process I worked towards the day that I would be alive without my dad longer than I’ve lived with him. That day was 10 February 2018, and as an end point of the grieving process I spent a weekend in Ireland to commemorate that day.
I’ve travelled quite a bit, and I’m hardly really nervous or anxious. How incredibly different was it while I was preparing for this trip. I was procrastinating on, nay, more resisting, packing my bag. I was utterly and completely afraid of what The Day would be like. So I was trying to find ways in which I could avoid The Day. I wasn’t looking for ways to simply avoid the trip. I hoped that by postponing packing my bag, I could actually prevent The Day from coming.