It’s an instruction that Sarah has given to me as I walk out the door to work more times than I can count. Sometimes, it’s fairly innocuous. Other times, it’s said with a fervent, if not pleading “PLEASE don’t die today”; usually after waking up from a particularly emotional dream.
It’s not a “tic” or meaningless, repetitive saying. She means it. She is constantly and consciously aware that at any moment, I could be gone. Any of us could, for any reason. Is saying it going to change fate? No, but it does indeed absolve her from responsibility in the event the worst occurs...like a pre-emptive “I told you so”.
Interestingly, I don’t say it nearly as much. I do say the far less instructive “Drive safe” often, but it is rarely “Don’t Die”. I think there are a few observations I’d like to make.
Sarah lost Drew to something sudden. His crash was outside of his immediate control (he wasn’t the person at the controls), but also preventable in other ways, by either not taking the co-pilot’s seat that morning, or never becoming a pilot in the first place. I mean, those weren’t really viable options, but in the technical sense, one can’t really have a helicopter crash if they’re not in a helicopter.
Her loss was also unexpected. Not that hovering above the earth in a ball of metal with blade tips whirling at 400+ miles per hour is a “safe” profession, but nobody goes into it expecting an accident. Nor do their loved ones, who encourage and support their endeavor.
The point is, had Sarah instructed Drew to not die, given the circumstances his only certain option was to, well, not fly. Just like my only certain option to not die in a car crash would be to not drive to work.
“Don’t Die” is simple, straightforward, and direct. It means she is concerned about my life, and it’s existence.
I lost Megan to a long, drawn out process of “Chronic Organ Transplant Rejection”. It’s a process that was terminal, with diminishing quality-of-life, ultimately resulting in no life at all. I couldn’t really tell her “Don’t Die”, because she was going to unless they miraculously found another organ donor. Even then, she would have undergone yet another ridiculously risky surgery to replace her lungs.
So, in my case, I was mostly concerned about Megan’s health and well-being up TO her death, rather than the immediate presence of her on this earth. The important thing to me is that she felt good, enjoyed her time here, and had as much quality time as possible. “Drive safe” doesn’t stray too far from “Enjoy the ride”.
When I tell Sarah to “Drive safe”, I mean it. It does indeed mean “Don’t die”, but also it means “Don’t have a fender bender, don’t break an arm, don’t scratch your car, get a speeding ticket, flatten a tire, or inconvenience yourself by sliding into a telephone pole on the ice”. It means that I don’t really expect her to have a life-ending, sudden accident, but I am very aware of all of the other things that could happen to diminish her quality-of-life. I don't want to prevent her from dying...I want to encourage her to live her life rewardingly.
I wonder if this is common among us widows, wherein, if we experienced sudden loss, “Don’t die” is the thought, and if it were long-term illness, something like “drive safe” or “be careful” is more common. Is it something where our brains say “don’t take the risk at all” versus “take a calculated risk”?
If Megan, or Sarah took up crab fishing, logging, piloting, truck driving, or any of those professions they make reality shows about, I would want them to be safe, but enjoy the work. If I decided to? Oh boy, Sarah would never forgive me. “Don’t die” would be replaced by “I’m leaving you”.
We all know in our hearts that the leading cause of death is being born...99.99999% of humans that have been afflicted with “being born” have died. I find it interesting, however, that those that remain possibly take on a different “follow through” in their thoughts and words depending on the circumstances of their loss(es).
I know, I know, I’m just rambling on here. I guess that I am really, truthfully interested if this is something common among the different “types” of loss, or if it’s just something I’ve observed between Sarah and I.
I am unashamedly going to ask for comments to this post with your thoughts!