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Nikki Luongo

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When Death Knocks

Posted: 10/02/2012 4:22 pm

Ten years ago, Whoopi Goldberg performed a live show, her first in nearly 20 some-odd years, and she portrayed a character that is so afraid of change and what the world is becoming that she considers killing herself because she wants to remember the world as she knows it. She comes to this conclusion as her "child" asks her one morning while she's tiding up if he's going to die while going to school. It makes her stop and think because in her day, things like that didn't happen. You didn't die on your way to school, you were most likely to die at the hands of your parents or grandparents for mouthing off, but in his little world, things like dying on the way to school happen every day, every 10 seconds someone is dying. My aunt used to say we start dying the moment we're born. It's just a matter of how and when.

Death and dying are such taboo subjects because no one wants to die, there's so much to do and see, not enough time of course to do it, but we want to absorb as much as we can in the limited time we have. But it's going to happen no matter how hard we fight because, as we all know, one moment changes everything, and everything we knew is gone with the snap of a finger.

I admit, I'm a bit obsessed with death. I want to know what happens, I have a desire to understand the unknown because I've been there, been so close only to be snatched back. This is twice -- I've been sick enough to actually come close to dying, and twice I've beaten the odds. My father is constantly asking why the fascination, I can't explain except it always goes back to my family.

Growing up, my family talked about death like he was going to Sunday dinner. It was who died of what, who got what debilitating illness, who died of what back in the 1970s and who do you think would be the next to go. Creepy as a little kid, but eventually I understood it was something that you can't fight, you just go through the motions and move on. My aunt Mame, whom my family calls an authority on death, once made a remark that as soon as the funeral is over, people forget you even exist. It became natural for me to not be afraid. To want to know what the next step is, if there is a such thing as an afterlife and angels or it's just it -- you take the last breath and that's it.

Grieving is a piece of it and in some cases, we never stop grieving because how can you get over losing someone who was a piece of your heart? There are moments when I remember a loss so tremendous that I can barely breathe, sometimes I forget and I'll think that this person is still alive and then it hits me like a ton of bricks and I go back to grieving harder than ever.

Although I have this minor obsession, I have no desire to move in too quickly, I have no plans of throwing myself in front of a train or jumping off the highest building in Boston. I just have a curiosity, as twisted as it sounds.

Having been sick twice for two separate reasons, things have been thrown at me that ordinarily wouldn't be tossed at someone my age -- the worry that too many IVs in my hands will cause the veins in my hands to collapse and I'll need a porta-cath before I'm 30, that If I go to kiss or hug someone, I need a general medical history because they could have an infection that could potentially make me ill, the theory that my illness will be misinterpreted and I'll be labeled as having something else, and I worry that someday I'll pass on this to a child who won't have clue as to why they are singled out for being constantly sick and have to understand a life of hospitals and being poked and prodded.

I make jokes about not living to be 30 -- my scary age -- because I am afraid that big number will become a change I cannot handle, but having gone through what I've been through, I instead will fight because I want to see the world in 30 years, who the people around me have become. Because in 2012 the world is is such a crazy place and moves a thousand miles an hour.

I have a friend, a dear friend, who is the sweetest person I know. He might not live to see his 40th birthday and his outlook is all staying positive and making sure his life is nothing short of spectacular. He's so full of love and hope, it's magnetic. When he smiles, he lights up a room and when that light is gone, it will be a tremendous loss to not only myself but to the world.

My beautiful, funny friend wants to be remembered as someone who loved life and made sure every day to smile even when life began kicking him in the ribs. I learned from him that what happens after you're gone means nothing, it's what you do now with this that makes it worthwhile. No matter what happens, all the fights and pettiness mean nothing.

I bring up this topic as food for thought because with the anniversary of 9/11 occurring last month, Halloween coming and just my own thoughts of the what's to come and because a woman recently -- without knowing my illnesses -- asked if I had my affairs in order just in case something were to happen, and it literally made me stop in my tracks. I never thought at 27 I'd have to worry about that, because without a husband or a kid, why should I? But I guess it does make sense, in some weird way I guess I do have think ahead.

Has someone ever made a comment like that, that made you think of something you ordinarily wouldn't? Do you think about death, or is it just something that exists but you don't care?

 

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