The ultimate existential
He woke up, looked at us one at a time, his gaze was steady but empty. Maybe he wasn't awake anyway, maybe he was in another sphere.
Then he closed his eyes and continued to breathe deeply, rattling a bit. Heavy as if he were working hard.
A while later, the breath became quieter, shorter. His flat chest moved less and less. Something was different after the last days, weeks, months, actually years' cramped grip on life. The fight against the disease, the refusal to let go, the hardness – breath by breath they ran out of him.
He went so easily, so calmly.
For a while we stood by the bed and listened before we asked the nurse to come with the stethoscope and confirm that he was gone.
It was the first time I followed another person to the end of life.
Death, perhaps the most difficult to understand of the fundamental existentials. We are born, we die. Beginning, end. Nothing we can opt out, they are given to us.
Your own birth is easy to take for granted.
If one is taking part in a child’s birth, one realizes what a miracle it is that a human being comes to the world – hearing the first inhalation, the breathing that connects man to the world. That makes it possible to grow to a person of one’s own.
That is a good perspective to take to your own life too – it is not something obvious, no matter whether you see chance or creator behind it.
And then we all – regardless of where and when we are born, what circumstances we grow up in – get the same existentials:
Freedom. Limited, difficult to grasp, but it is there.
Responsibility. For one self, for others, for the surrounding world.
Options. Every day we make countless choices. The choice to choose consciously is one of the most important.
So we live our lives, day after day, in an unbroken wreath of actions that are a result of the choices we make, taking more and less responsibility for the freedom we are born to.
One day is the last.
An exhalation becomes the last.
So much concern, anxiety, fear this existential gives us. May the conviction that it is a waste of life energy stay with me. May my anxiety be directed toward things where I have the freedom to choose and act.
Because there, at the deathbed, there was only a total, wordless presence of something. No strong emotions (yet). A stillness that I last experienced directly after my children's birth. To be involved in something you cannot control or fully understand.
Just accept and let it happen.
Birth and death.