• On Death And Dying.

    (Has anyone ever used that title before?)

    (Just kidding.)

    Roger Ebert died yesterday. I’ve been a faithful reader of Ebert’s for years. Well, let me clarify that. I’ve never read his reviews. I think maybe I’ve read some bad ones, because he does it well, but those are not the words I ever cared about. No. I cared about his words about life, death, and everything in between.

    Death has been in the forefront of my life lately. Nothing directly affecting me, but directly affecting many of the people I love and hold dear. A mother here. A sister-in-law there. A coworker to her and a wife to him. I have spent more hours thinking about death and dying in the last couple of months than I have since my own father lost his battle to cancer.

    Here is a reprint of a great essay that Robert Ebert wrote about death. Here is my favorite excerpt from that essay:

    “Kindness” covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

    Yesterday was…one of those days. Half my family is sick, my van was diagnosed with $2000 worth of problems, and it was cold and raining. I was whining all over the damn internet about all of these things. And then I saw Ebert had died and I read those words and I remembered…I’m going to a funeral this weekend for someone younger than me who is leaving behind hearts in the kind of pain I can’t even fathom.

    And I slapped myself in the face.

    The people around me who have suffered great loss in the last few months, maybe I can comfort them by heeding Ebert’s advice and trying to contribute joy to the world. I am beyond blessed. I have steady work now that I am thoroughly enjoying, I have health that allows me to run a race on Saturday with a group of runners I was privileged to help train, I have children that bring light to my life when I’m not yelling at them to, “STOP STANDING AT THE KITCHEN WINDOW WITHOUT ANY CLOTHES ON!”

    (I promise I’m not talking about E.)

    How many times have I written about my desire to spread Joy to the world? To increase the ripples of awesome? To be a good nerdfighter and decrease world suck? Yet time and time again I find myself wallowing in self-pity and needing to be reminded of all of those things…again. And again. And again.

    But I guess it’s better than continuing to wallow, right?

    So, I start over. For the 12-millionth time. I recognize there are people suffering more than I am, and that my time is limited on this planet. I decide to focus more on shining light in the darkness, instead of spreading my negativity into the universe. I stop complaining about the DAMN VAN ALREADY and instead, come home after a late night and I snuggle with my children and give thanks for those moments.

    Until they punch me in the face in their sleep. Then I mumble a hushed, “Mother Trucker!” and curse them and their restless bodies.

    Damn kids. Just trying to be sweet and what thanks do I get? None. Just a bloody nose.

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    I guess as long as I keep starting over…As long as I keep re-focusing when I’ve lost my sight…As long as I get back on the path that I’ve wandered from…As long as I return to spreading joy after sucking more than my share from the world…I’m still doing okay. I’ll remember Roger Ebert’s words today and be grateful I was allowed to read them for as many years as I did. I can’t believe he won’t be sharing his wisdom with the world anymore. His silenced voice leaves a void too unique to be filled.