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The fear of life and death

Updated: Jun 22, 2022

Danger starts from the moment conception occurs. Conception occurs after the 200-300 million sperm cells race to fertilize that single prized egg. It's a wonder any of us are even here as "us" and not somebody else.

Furthermore, with so many risks and millions of ways to die, how is it that any of 'us' make it past the age of one, let alone fifty. What a miracle it is that life expectancy is >70.

We have realized how little we had been actually living as a family before this year. The fears of death, illness, underachieving, letting others down, assault, and not reaching 90 years of age have a way of paralyzing individuals. We bubble-wrap ourselves and our kids, living less in hopes of achieving more. More numbers. All about the big numbers, isn't it? The ol' quantity over quality problem!

We recently were told a story by one of our neighbors of how her friend's husband got sick. Desperate to treat him, they sold their family land to pay for medication. Shortly after the treatments, the man of the house died anyways, and the poor family was left with nothing but to watch the foreigners, that had benefited from the desperate sale, build a hotel on their former land.

Could it be that we all need to stop and accept that maybe death is not the worst thing possible?

A moment ago, I was sitting considering this topic. What brought it up was the thought of how much illness and discomfort we have felt this year and how neither Chrissy nor I would trade it back.

It's been a year filled with sacrifice. Christina and I are continually affirming one another as to why we are here and what we are doing. Interestingly, when we were both recently quite worn down, I overheard a conversation where an adult explained the word 'sacrifice' to one of my kids.

"Sacrifice is the act of trading something of value for something of higher value."

It hit me hard, and it's crazy how sometimes these things I overhear, quite "randomly," are the lessons I most need at the moment. It is SO simple.

As a father, I value my children's health over almost everything, certainly over my own, and most certainly over money or any 'stuff.' Our health has taken a hit this year several times and has been the main thing sacrificed. Giving up something of value hurts, no matter what the gains, which are usually not immediately evident.

As the natural optimist I am, I fear that I may have sugar-coated the whole experiment in this blog. If I have, it's because I usually focus on the items gained through the sacrifices: community, cultural awareness, and experiences of a lifetime with our kids. But to keep it real, water cutoffs, blackouts, lousy internet, dirty floors, regular diarrhea, and the constant buzzing of flies in our home have been hard things to accept as normal.

As a self-comforting mechanism, it's also suitable to note that many of the discomforts felt may not have been avoided anyway had we made different choices. For example, many peers expressed concern when we were preparing to leave Canada for Guatemala amidst a global pandemic. We inevitably did get sick. However, many friends back home did as well, seeing as it was global.

Giving up comforts, therefore "seeking discomfort," is just another fancy, trendy, new way of saying 'healing,' although it seems counter-intuitive. By facing our fears, we are no longer postponing the discomfort of the honest moments needed to connect with others truly.

There. I did it. I landed up making this about connection like most posts I write! Dang! I didn't even mean to!

Could I be on to something with such a simple notion? Is genuine connection uncomfortable at times? Absolutely. But postponing those challenging moments only makes things worse.

In marriage

Many husbands know that the time needed to give emotional attention to a marriage or relationship can be terrifying. It often gets pushed off, and vices like social media, porn, and work become hiding places. Meanwhile, a former best friend and beautiful human is there, just waiting to connect until she isn't. The growing pains for Christina and me were real. I can say that the sacrifice it took to trade the 'comforts' in and sit with a lot of ugly stuff, connect and work through it all allowed us to re-invent ourselves. It took time. A renewed partnership followed.

In parenting

As many of us struggle to allow our children to feel discomfort 'before they are ready for it,' let's take a moment to acknowledge how quickly time flies. They are ready for it. A few weeks ago, I was in a busy city and watched a mother begging with a cardboard sign at an overwhelmingly busy intersection. Twenty-five feet away (miles out of helicopter-parent reach), her 1.5-year-old sat on the median, patiently waiting for her mother. I don't wish that on any child, yet the moment spoke to me about the adaptational powers of young children. Giving our children the room to feel pain also allows us to open the door to connect with them and guide them through the difficult moments.

In friendships and community

Many of us have honeymoon moments with friends. Still, once issues and disagreements surface, we assume a lapse in judgment may have occurred to befriend them in the first place. Many mute the relationship and turn to the next exciting thing. The list goes on. We can all gain deeper roots by trading in the comfort of hiding.

Will there be pain? YES! That's what this is all about. Pain is inevitable.

Let's deal with that together.

Let's embrace it by consciously and actively choosing proactive pain over the pains that come from consequences. By accepting pain as a critical ingredient in the recipe for a rich life, perhaps we'll be able to pair our fears of death with an equal fear of not living.


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