For a lot of people, the 31st of December is New Years Eve, and that means it’s a chance to reflect on the past year and get ready for a new one.
Of course, that also includes huge parties with copious amounts of alcohol, and probably some regrettable sex on top of the photocopier.
For me, December 31st is my birthday, and that means a bunch of different things.
When I was a kid, that meant getting gypped by relatives again because I’d get “combined Christmas/birthday gifts” instead of getting two separate toys on two separate occasions like all the other kids.
Then when I got older, December 31st meant another birthday that is overshadowed by the huge NYE parties everywhere. Sure I’d get to blow out some candles at some point, but I know that everyone is just waiting for the big moment a few hours later when they can count backwards from 10 and blow on noisemakers… but my feelings of insecurity can be reserved for another post.
But on the 31st of December 2012, this day took a totally different meaning when my father-in-law died of a heart attack.
I got woken up early in the morning by a phone call from my sister-in-law, informing us that my father-in-law was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital because his heart stopped. Wifey and I immediately rushed to the hospital, but we never got to see him alive again.
While this isn’t exactly the first time I’ve experienced a death in the family (all four of my grandparents have passed away, and I’ve been to about 3-4 funerals in the past few years), this is definitely the first time it has happened to someone close to me. Most of my grandparents died when I was really young, and I wasn’t really all that close to them in the first place anyway.
New Year’s Day is normally spent nursing hangovers or lazing on the Internet, but I was placing his obituary and helping to organize the wake. Basically, I had a lot of time to think about things, and here are some things that resonated with me.
You could die any given time
My father-in-law was relatively young. At 57, he is like almost a decade younger than my dad, which is kinda scary when I think about that.
It was also compounded by the fact that the death was so incredibly sudden and unexpected – I mean, we just celebrated my birthday over lunch the day before. He seemed perfectly healthy, happy, and it was seriously just like any other day. Nobody could’ve imagined that he would be dead less than 24 hours later.
And that did affect me a lot. I mean, it’s just the sheer suddenness of it. There was no transitional period for anybody to get used to the fact that he’s not going to be around much longer. He wasn’t placed in a hospital ward or anything, where we could visit him as he slowly wasted away.
One minute he’s alright, and the next thing you know he’s dead and gone.
To me, that’s like my own mortality slapping me in the face. I could die at any given time, so it’s probably a good idea to not only plan for the future, but also make sure that you’d be relatively satisfied with your life if you were to die right now. Also, I’d better get my shit together so that if something does happen to me, the wifey and Beanie will at least get something out of it.
I’m not exactly obese or anything, but I know I’m not very healthy so all those “I’ll start jogging tomorrow” thoughts should become “Let’s go get my shoes right now”, and so on.
How will I be remembered?
During the wake, I spoke to a whole bunch of random people, who all had good things to say about my father-in-law. That got me thinking about my legacy, and how I’d like to be remembered.
I guess this is pretty poignant at this time of my life, where I’m also in a transitional period trying to figure out the next step of my career.
I narrowed it down to two things:
- I want to be remembered for being involved in something meaningful. Hopefully a videogame or a short film or a piece of writing that a small group of people will be thinking about decades from now, the same way I’m always musing about certain videogames and movies that are shining beacons in my childhood.
- I want to be remembered as a loving husband and father. I could be an asshole to everyone else in the world, but don’t want anybody to be able to deny that I was good to wifey, Beanie and Sonic.
I want Beanie to know who I was
The prospect of being a dad is immensely exciting to me, and I’m really striving right now to prepare myself to be a great dad. But what if something should happen to me?
So to that end, I’ve started a new blog where I’ll periodically write letters to Beanie so that someday in a couple of decades, he/she will have a record of all the things I’ve wanted to say to him/her while he/she was still a tiny Bean inside the Bean Carrier. If all goes well with that plan, I’ll probably continue writing letters all the way up to the stage where Beanie and I can actually have a decent conversation.
I wasn’t that close to my parents and don’t really know that much about their past, so maybe this would be a way to ensure that Beanie can get to know me, even if something unfortunate should happen to me later.