Expecting a Death Notice

With the death of Muhammad Ali, many people are grieving and rightly so. I came across an article today asking “Is 2016 the year of celebrity death?”

That headline took me aback. I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps because it wrongly (in my opinion) ascribes more significance to the death of celebrities. Perhaps because it seems as though the most significant thing this author is grieving is the death or people who were not directly a part of her life. Sure they had influenced her, but they never babysat her. They never played games with her. They never built memories and shared experiences together.

The author shared the following tweet:

Every time I see a celeb trend, I expect a death notice. 2016, this is what you’ve done to me.              -@zantetsuken76

My initial response was eye rolling. Then I had to check myself… people’s emotional connection to celebrities can vary in significance.

I came to the realization that I rolled my eyes because I have been expecting a death notice since I was 13.

I’m a fatalist. I’m a pessimist. I assume the worst outcome is the most likely and it can’t be overcome. In the past I have often visualized myself in scenarios where members of my family, friends, or coworkers die to mentally test myself in how I would respond. Would I have the courage to stop a gunman? Would I have the discipline to work multiple jobs to help take care of my brothers? What would it feel like to help my roommate’s parents sort though his possessions?

Morbid, I know. But that’s apparently one of the ways my mind needed to cope with my mom’s death.

Phone calls at weird hours were assumed to be bad news, so when my dad called after 11:00pm on a week night, I assumed it was bad news.

It was. And as shocking as it was to hear that my brother had died, it was almost like I expected it. I had rehearsed so many of these scenes in my head, it was not the punch in the gut like I assumed it would be. It was much slower than that, taking months or years to really sink in. The result of expecting death is that when death comes, you are so emotionally prepared for it that you don’t emote anything.

I envy people who do not have an expectation of death. And I long to repossess that innocence.


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