Recently, I found myself pregnant at a pretty old age – 47 years old. It came as a complete surprise, and because of the situation I was in, it wasn’t a very easy time. I noticed immediately that my body was reacting to it completely differently than it had when I was much younger. It was partly the age, I think, but partly because there was something not quite right. My doctor told me I had the fertility of a 25 year-old. But those eggs, they’re not young eggs. Either way, it was rough. The fetus died after the first month but my body didn’t figure it out for a whole other month. I think I almost died miscarrying that baby, partly because I didn’t want to go to the hospital and partly because I didn’t want to let go of it. I wanted there to be a baby, you see.
Even still, a whole year later it’s hard to come to terms with it. My body hasn’t fully adjusted yet and I still mourn what might have been. But one thing it did do was connect me quite dramatically with the shortness of life. I did the math – 47 + 20 = 67. That’s almost 70 by the time my kid would be 20. And from 70 to 80 and then…so short. So unbearably, horribly, unfathomably short. Would it have been worth it for the kid to know me for such a short time? Would it be easier to leave, harder? I didn’t know the answer to that – but I did know that suddenly life looked very differently to me.
And it still does.
I look around at everything and it feels so temporary. Why buy a house even? What a shame to have such a vast intelligence as a species and yet have no way to comprehend how it all comes to an end? I googled “fear of death” hoping that the internet, the almighty oracle, might help me. It did. Briefly. I looked back at the last three decades – my 40s, my 30s, my 20s and wondered suddenly where it all went so fast and why can’t I have it back? What will the next few decades be like?
I went to therapy for a time – that did help. Briefly. I wrote out a bucket list but all that did was make me think about the end again:
- Live for a year in Paris
- Write a book for my daughter about my life and her life
- Travel through europe
- Help children in a significant way
- Make a documentary or a film
- Paint with my daughter on Sundays
- Free all of the chimps from all of the labs
- Buy and run a farm and sanctuary for animals
- Get married
It’s really not that big of a bucket list so far. I know if think hard enough I can come up with more.
I watched each day pass. Then I watched each hour. And then each minute. And I thought every second of every day is one I will never get back. It is behind me. Gone.
I wondered, who isn’t terrified about this stuff? Maybe sociopaths. But maybe religious people because they have God, theoretically. They have Heaven.
So then I decided to start talking to God. It came purely out of desperation and shame, not faith or even pretend faith. My God isn’t Christian or Jewish or Budhhist. I am not agnostic. It isn’t that I don’t know. It’s that I want there to be something there. I need there to be something there. I need to know there is an external membrane to this life that will one day reunite me with my daughter in the afterlife. What afterlife? We atheists know that it’s earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. We die and transform into energy, into something else living. That’s a beautiful thing.
See, there is so much about evolution and nature that I have learned how to trust. I had to learn it the hard way. The first was giving birth to my daughter. No matter how in control of my body I thought I was, no matter how arrogantly I approached it, I felt the giant hands of millions of years of natural evolution pushing that baby out of me. It couldn’t be stopped. It was happening outside of my own thoughts, outside of my rational mind.
The need to believe in something higher is a form of relief necessary for survival. Who am I to fight against something so powerful?
So you will never see me saying “I will pray for you.” You will never hear me say that I believe God was on my side or that he spared me and allowed all others to perish. Nothing in the Bible will ever to be true to me. That’s fanfic of the highest order.
But sometimes, at night, you might hear me saying hello to the imaginary sanctuary into which I will one day find myself falling forever into. I hope my daughter can believe it too. It makes living easier. Ever so slightly.