Friday, April 11, 2014

Coming Face to Face With Your Own Mortality

Earlier this week the world lost an incredible performer.  James Brian Hellwig (also known as the Ultimate Warrior) passed away just days after being inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame.  Like many former Wrestling fans from that era, I was saddened by the loss but with all the early deaths you hear about with wrestlers it's easy to become numb to it.  What I wasn't prepared for though was the image of Warrior with his two girls on stage at the induction ceremony.  Not only was a former Wrestling great dead, but two young girls are now left without a father pretty early in their life.  Their lives will never be the same after this and with my own young child at home, this shook me more than I thought it would.

You hear about it all the time - actor dies from a heroin overdose, car crash, sudden heart attack, etc.  We see the news articles that tell in (unfortunately) grisly details just what happened, how it happened, who it happened to, but the articles always lose focus on the people who are left behind.  Whoever died is dead and gone.  I imagine death is a lot like before you were born, you just cease to exist.  But for the people who remain, their lives are changed forever.

Becoming a parent brings a lot of emotions to the forefront of your life.  Are you prepared for being a dad, do you make enough money, is your house big/clean/new enough, etc.  One other that a lot of people don't usually talk about is the sense of of your own mortality.  My wife and I had our first child last year when I was 29 and she 28.  Up to that point in our life we didn't really need to worry about death because we were still young.  Sure, we have life insurance policies from work and we use our health insurance when it's needed, but I never thought about what it would be like if I died - how it would affect my family.  When my wife was pregnant that all changed.  My wife and I made the choice to have her take 2 years off work to raise our son from home while I remain in the workforce and support the family.  What if I passed away?  How would that leave my family.  Will the aforementioned life insurance be enough to keep my family going?  How will my son be raised without a father?  Will he get a new dad when I'm gone?  Will he remember me?

These are the types of crazy thoughts I was faced with as I passed a very pivotal moment in the life cycle of a human being - reproduction.  It seems that we as humans have certain milestones in life and when we pass each we begin to examine our situation on this little rock we call Earth.  I remember graduating from college before I started my first job and thinking to myself that I had life by the proverbial balls.  The next big step was marriage where I was faced with thoughts of starting a family and the excitement (and fear) that brings.  The next step is having kids, which I'm going through right now.  For the first time in my life, I have two people who depend on me and I don't want to let them down.

I did some research on the topic when I first started having these thoughts and found that this is a perfectly normal response to having kids (especially for the first time.)  A quick Google search will reveal that there are hundreds of forum posts and articles online about the "fear of death" in regards to having children.  There is just something about bringing life into the world that makes people fear losing their own.  But at the end of the day, getting stuck on something as trivial as "What if I die?" is just a moot point.  Unless you are actively in the grasps of some medical emergency, worrying about the "what if's" will do nothing productive with your life.  Be prepared for the unexpected, that's a given - make sure you have adequate life insurance and make sure your family has health insurance so that you are covered if something unfortunate happens.  But it's not worth worrying about something without just cause.  Even if you have cause to worry, it will only make the situation worse for everyone involved.  So sit up straight, fix your posture (we don't want your back giving out on you) and give your kid a kiss on the head before you leave the house to go to work.  He'll be there waiting for you when you get home with a big smile and a laugh - make sure you return the gesture.

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