I remember my first run in with death.
I was 4 years old. My family had a guinea pig named Buddy. One day, I came home from preschool after catching a ride with my babysitter. It was raining, as it usually seems to be doing on days with such significance as this. My brother was already home from middle school, and when my mom let me in the front door of the house, I saw him crying on the stairs.
I was too young to understand at that point. But I knew that Buddy was gone.
When I was seven, I'd grown up enough to understand that experience and understand that in a house such as mine, where we had so many animals, and so many lives to look after and consider, that this would be a natural progression. Animals died. However, I did not understand what it meant when my dad told me that my grandmother had had to put her dog, a little Chihuahua, to sleep.
Two months later, I asked my mom if he'd woken up yet. All she could do was stare at me, looking as if she was either going to cry or burst out into tears.
I understood it's meaning at age 9 when my family came home from brunch at the IHOP to discover that my dog Sheba, the one who had guarded me in my bedroom the first five years of my life when I slept each night, had defecated all around the house and was now lying unconscious on the kitchen tile. We put her to sleep too, only to end the misery that would have come if we'd allowed to her live her natural remaining days.
That same year, my grandmother died, a victim of a poor heart. It was a Wednesday. Ironically enough, the Monday just before, she had gone to the doctor and had been deemed healthy. When she left the car that day, I didn't realize that that would be the last time I would ever see her. I didn't understand the fact that my selfish childhood ways, in which I didn't want to spend time with her because I didn't understand the difference and significance of age, that my resilience to not give her a hug would haunt me for the rest of my life.
We didn't find her until Friday.
It wasn't a surprise at age 14 when my dog, who'd been taken to my house as a puppy just a month after I was born, died while my family was on vacation in Disney World.
I'd seen it coming a long time coming.
Around age 15 death was something that surrounded me almost constantly. It is around this age when these newfound teenagers begin to question their existence. And once downtrodden by life, having someone find something wrong in everything they do, to find themselves stressed, a line of explosives down their body, and the slightest wrong movement will make them explode. At age 15, my best friend of the time and I shared something very deep in common. We felt worthless, as if life was at its end and there was no use.
I contemplated my death each day, wondering how I'd go. On one occasion, maybe twice, I'd tried to end it then and there. I welcomed death.
She did too. And she almost didn't survive. Neither of us did. But we made it.
But at age 15, my grandmother, who'd been ill for years, was reaching her final moments. I got the phone call right after class that she was sitting in a hospital room in Nevada, each of her organs killing itself one by one. And while I wanted nothing more for my own life to end, I did not want this. It was a time when I still believed in God. And so I prayed for her life.
But death didn't leave me. It became a fact of life. At age 17, almost 18, that same grandmother finally passed. She was cremated and her ashes brought back to Arizona. That was the first time I'd seen heppa, as we spread them. Heppa, an almost daily conversation topic of mine now due to work. Heppa, all of life and what made a person in some grayish substance lighter than sand.
At age 18, my dad died. We'd had 2 days notice but it wasn't enough. It's never enough. We rushed to the hospice and made it moments after his passing. He was gone. I cried and cried for 2 hours that day.
I haven't shed another tear since.
At age almost 20 now, I still question this idea of mortality. I work at a Haunted Mansion, a place where death is a commonplace fact, whether it be for show or not. It happens. It's a fact of life in which I have accepted. I still contemplate my own life at times, but unlike age 15, I do not wish it to end, rather to know what it will bring to me.
There's something beautiful in this idea of darkness. I believe in the beauty of darkness. Not just of death, but of things as a whole. I do not fantasize death. No.
But I still ponder.
It's a fact of life I've learned to accept.
People tend to confuse this with my personality. They seem to think that because I am of this mindset, I am automatically deemed to be depressing. Depression was something I battled, and let me tell you, this is nothing like it. Despite this being my interest, I'm still a happy personality. I laugh, and I smile, and I enjoy life.
I've come too close to death for me to not enjoy life.
I try to take risks, and go out of my way to make others happy. Yes, admittedly, I'm not Little Miss Sunshine all the time. I find that fake and I have great respect for those who can genuinely be 100% that all the time. As for myself, I'd rather be one hundred percent me.
I am a happy person. But maybe my definition of happiness is different from others. I am happy in the fact that I love my family, I love my friends, I love my job, I'm surviving life, I'm on my own, I'm free to make my own decisions, and have a life worth living. It makes me happy to watch movies by Tim Burton, to look through creepy photos on Tumblr of the darker aspects of life, to watch horrifying TV shows and sit on the edge of my seat, and to enjoy playfully scaring at work.
I am happy.
I have come to understand that life ends at some point, whether we want it to or not. Whether we understand it's definition or significance or not. Whether or not we're ready for it or if the people in our lives are ready for it. It ends. And I'd rather accept that fact, and die knowing that I did what made me happiest in my lifetime.
So if what makes me happy is different than what makes you happy, then so be it.
But don't go around thinking I'm not happy.
Because in truth I'm probably the happiest sadistic person you'll ever know.
And I'm ok with that.