Right now, Paula is on her way to San Francisco to spend five days with her best friend. I just talked to her, she’s on the road and everything is fine, yet I can’t escape this lingering thought…
What if she gets in a car accident and I never see her again?
I could rationalize it, remind myself that it’s highly unlikely and try not to think about it, but the truth is there’s still a part of me that’s afraid she will die, especially since we’re not together. Every time we part, I wonder if that was the last kiss, the last glance, or the last time I will get to feel her in my arms.
The prospect of living through her death is sometimes too much for me to handle, but I try not to ignore it. As uncomfortable as it can be at times — I’ve noticed that the fear of losing each other is the magic ingredient in our relationship.
This Will Also Change
In 2008 Paula was married to a man named Albert, and after three years of being together he and his friend were hit by a car while driving through an intersection. They both died on impact, and his death left Paula full of grief and all alone in a new country. Her world turned upside down, and since then she is constantly reminded of how she took his love for granted, and how much more she appreciated him after he was gone.
That’s the gift she brings to our relationship.
She is constantly present to the certainty that our relationship will end and we talk about it often. I didn’t say the “possibility” that our relationship will end, because it’s not a possibility. We would love to die side by side at the ripe old age of one hundred, laying in a bed of flowers surrounded by loved ones, but we might not. I might die, she might die or we might get divorced. All of these outcomes are statistically far more probable than us dying together.
But we don’t want to feel all this. Even now there is a voice saying “what if you jinxed yourself by writing about these thoughts publicly?” We’ve become so accustomed to avoiding the conversation around death that talking about it openly seems awkward and weird.
But it’s normal. In fact, we’ve noticed that embracing impermanence allows both of us to show up fully for each other, and ourselves. We believe this so much that the inscription on our wedding rings is “this will also change”. It’s also an homage to the 10-day Vipassana meditation course.
Our wedding rings were made with the melted gold from Paula and Albert’s rings, and someday they will be used in another form or passed on to someone else.
Embracing death is the best way to not take our lives and our relationships for granted, but when we avoid it and numb ourselves to the pain of inevitable loss, we are robbed of that precious gift of deeply appreciating what we have, before it’s too late.
Because one day, it will be.