“Have you ever been close to dying?” is a question I’ve learned to ask whenever I interview someone for a profile piece because it inevitably reveals a fascinating inner glimpse into the person’s life - both the experience they encountered and what they learned from it.
We’ve likely all come close to dying at many points in our lives and didn’t even know it, somehow regularly dodging bullets as we make our way through our daily existence.
Yes it’s a morbid topic but it’s also an absolute facing us all and, as such, subject to fascinating human scrutiny as we pour over YouTube dashcam footage of traffic mishaps or a number of Reddit subfeeds, one particularly poignant called ‘The last images ever taken’ of loved ones before their deaths. Rather than the gloominess it might seem, the posts are often touching tributes to friends and family members and the last photos, in their normalcy, perfectly capture what unites, rather than divides us.
A recent trip to our notary to update our wills has brought the topic of death to the forefront of conversation. First drafted following the birth of our first child, our last will and testament forced us into the realm of the grown-up world more than all the other milestones of maturity, including first cars, homeownership, and grey hair.
With our first will, our delightful notary - who can make such conversations actually enjoyable - presented a number of theoretical scenarios, everything from either of us being rendered permanently incapacitated to both of us dying at the same time, and asked how we would want to handle them.
We sat in stunned silent unison when she asked what course of action we would want to take in the event of our then only child’s demise.
“I was ready to deal with you kicking off,” my husband later said on the drive home, “but not him!”
In all fairness, I was thinking the same thing.
The fact that reworking our will came up on the same week that the airbag light in my car came on, leading the dealer to declare my airbag non-functional unless I fork over $1600, is purely coincidental.
“If he 'accidentally' falls down the stairs, then I’m suddenly rich, right?” I asked the notary as we prepared to leave her second-storey office.
“Absolutely,” she replied with a wink.
Maybe it’s part of aging but at a certain point, we become increasingly aware of our mortality and I’ve since become obsessed with the mocking red light on my dashboard that appeared scant months after the warranty period ended.
I’ve tried reasoning with myself that I survived growing up in an era where we didn’t wear seatbelts, nor bike helmets, skitched on the backs of car bumpers, and piled en masse (again without helmets) on long wooden toboggans to throw our little snowsuited bodies down steep snow-covered inclines. But my dangerously overactive imagination often leads me into scary places.
It was only at the end of the day that I realized we had left the notary’s office without paying her.
“I was so focussed on that airbag light that I completely forget to write the cheque,” I said.
Brushing his teeth, my husband spat out a mouthful of toothpaste and said, “I was so focussed on making it down the stairs alive.”