Lessons From Death

Today is the anniversary of Sylvia Plath’s birth. I like that. I like that much better than the anniversary of her death. It says, “Let’s celebrate how a beautiful human being was born into this world. She came and showed us her shining voice, and that is what counts.” 

I met a guy, long time back, through messages on Tumblr. We bonded over Doctor Who; Clara (Oswin) Oswald had just been introduced, and he was ecstatic, I mean, outright excited about this new character. We gleefully anticipated the premier of the seventh series, and after it aired, we shot messages back and forth about cleverness and burnt soufflés. A few days later, I found out he was dead.

I don’t know why, but today, Sylvia Plath’s anniversary triggered something. I went back through Tumblr messages. His account isn’t there anymore. His messages are gone.

There’s no other way to put it, no sweet facade of words to face something so utterly bleak and frustrating. He had died two days after the premier. After a while, I stopped watching the series. When they announced Clara as the new companion, I cried.

It’s not fair to say that I knew him, because I barely had a sense of who he was—online messages can’t substitute real life. But there were still threads of honesty. His enthusiasm was contagious. He worked hard, that much I gathered from his friends and family. He didn’t deserve to die.

And who does? I’m not ready to answer. Not yet. While that question turns infinities in my head, I’d much rather focus on what it means to deserve to live. Sylvia Plath earned it. He earned it. Have I earned it? Or does that not matter until I’m gone?

In her (unabridged) journals, Plath says this:

Let’s face it: I’m scared, scared and frozen. First, I guess I’m afraid for myself… the old primitive urge for survival. It’s getting so I live every moment with terrible intensity. It all flowed over me with a screaming ache of pain… remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted. When you feel that this may be good-bye, the last time, it hits you harder.

People have told me to spend every day as if it’s my last, but it’s so, incredibly exhausting to live a life like that. To react to every moment as if touching white electricity. To escape constantly from ennui. To live with hard hits. And yet, I try anyway, because I can’t help but love the tiny flame that keeps me burning my fires. 

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