The Clerestory Podcast S1 E25

The Oklahoma Tenant Farmer and Me
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A Time for Everything

One of my earliest memories of coming to terms with mortality was when I was a child, just shy of seven years old. I remember curiously asking my older cousin what would happen to us after death. She shared with me the Christian belief that when we die, we would no longer be in our physical bodies, our souls would go to heaven and we would have eternal life with God. The thought of this was dizzying and I remember the feeling of terror that rippled through my body. What did it matter that our souls would go to heaven if I would no longer be alive on this earth?

I reel in despair whenever I think about the trajectory of my life moving towards an inevitable end. I fear the day when I will no longer be in my body - to breathe, to see, to smell, to hear, and to touch. My fear washes over me, immobilizing me in a feeling of both hopelessness and helplessness. Most days, I try to push away the reality of our mortality. But the thoughts always come back to haunt me, reminding me that my days, and the days of the ones I love are finite.

As I wrestle with religious views of death and the afterlife, I lament with resentment that I am in a body that will eventually no longer be mine. Death will take every choice of mine away. It feels deceitful, to be brought into this world, only for our life to eventually be taken away, our breath stolen. We spend our lives building - our relationships, our homes, our communities. We build and we build…and then it turns to dust. As I try to find meaning from something that does not make sense, I’ve wondered, why are we here inhabiting the earth with our grand desires? What is the purpose of our existence? I am still contemplating on the answer amidst the ever-present doubts in my faith.

Since the recent death of my grandmother, I have been reflecting on the concept of legacy and how the decisions she made in her life made it possible for me to be alive in this moment in time. While her body is now beneath the earth, I think of how I am merely an extension of her love. Even though her heart ceases to beat and her physical existence is gone, her presence is expressed through those who have known her, including her friends, her family, and myself. I carry her stories within me, including the layers of generations before me.

As my family struggled to come to terms with the end of her life, a family member shared a verse from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. An excerpt from it, stood out for me in particular:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die…
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)

I wonder whether the natural course of things is to a have a beginning and an end, and that we must hold space for both. That accepting this concept without bitterness frees us to live in a way that prioritizes love. Whenever I think about how someday I will no longer be in existence, I want to run to the ones I love and hold them even closer. Grappling with my own mortality has elicited a burning desire to love more and reminds me to let go of any trivial preoccupations. For me, the depth to which I live my life is only as deep as my love for others.

Naomi enjoys engaging in many forms of art and creativity, especially writing, reading and painting. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia where she works as a dietitian. In addition to learning about nutrition, she has a particular interest in health promotion, equity and well-being, and hopes to one day pursue a master’s degree in these areas.

Discover more from Naomi Oh .