Death in your pocket by Will Ringland


I've been trying to summarize what has been running around and around in my head for the last year. I've been thinking about death and dying and what that means, and what I want it to mean. Because in the end, what do we really leave?

There are three parts to this

  1. My dad's death left an impression on me in a number of ways
  2. I've been depressed the last few weeks
  3. And I've been reading a lot on stoicism

The way we die

I don't know if my dad saw it coming. He;d been struggling with back pain and chest congestion for the few weeks leading up to the stroke that hospitalized him. Even if he was had an idea, he wouldn't have left himself be aware of it, not acknowledge it. He was kind of a half assed Buddhist in that he believed life was suffering but didn't take the next steps to understand or lessen it in himself. Rather, he figured he should just accept whatever is handed him, he didn't have much control over it anyway.

It's speculation but speculation that comes from some conversations about my own depression and successful treatment of it with medication. He didn't seem interested in trying to treat his own flat or disaffected moods.

So I don't think he would have necessarily done anything much if he'd known. Or maybe even changed anything in his life. He worked at a job he loathed literally up until he was hospitalized. I don't want that to be me.

A half way point?

I turned 35 this month. The most recent generations of men in my familiar all died around 70 years. That would put me at 50%. Half way through my own life. And what do I have to show for it, what really lasting thing?

I know there's lots of intangible stuff. I have friends and family and cats that would all miss me. But I haven't made much of a dent in the universe otherwise. And thinking about dying without something surviving beyond me is terrifying. Disappearing into a void, memories and all, being forgotten.. that's the shit that fuels my nightmares.

Set aside that I've not really defined what I'd want in a legacy and that many of my favorite writers and artists didn't start making their dent until well after 35. So, it's not like I'm out of time. Just... being potentially half way through? Man... that gives me chills.

Remember that you have to die

You waste time as if it was a limitless resource, when any moment you spend on someone else or some matter is potentially your last. You possess a fear that is all too human but have the boundless desires of a god. You will hear many men say: “When I’m fifty I’ll slow down; when I’m sixty, I’ll be ready for retirement.” But what guarantee, pray, do you have that your life will last longer? Who is going to make sure your life plays out just as you plan it? Are you not ashamed to save for yourself only the last part of your life, and to set aside for knowledge only that time which can’t be spent on making money?

It is too late to begin living life just as it is ending! What stubborn denial of mortality to delay dreams to after your fiftieth and sixtieth year, and to plan on starting your life at a point that not everyone gets to.

A think a lot of the things I've been doing at Wrestling With Franklin1 orbits that which the Stoics defined centuries ago. Much of what I'm trying to do by cultivating virtue is about doing as much as I can with what ever amount of time I have available.

But it's all about ensuring that I'm here more and there's more here, whatever that ends up being.

It's vaguely morbid but I bought the medallion in the pictures as a reminder, like it was taught by the Stoics, that death comes to anyone. And it isn't predictable. Maybe it will remind me to focus and create more things, spend more time with people, do more with what I've got.

I don't know what all that means or where I need to go in order to feel satisfied with what I do every day, let's alone what I'll need to do to ensure the next years matter, the next decades matter, the rest of my life matters.

These are just the things that've been rattling through my head since the 5th.

Memorial Day 2016 by Will Ringland

We spent the weekend visiting family (my in-laws) in Okiboji, IA. This is the first time in memory that I've done anything which included celebrating the actual Memorial Day holiday.

It was poignant. Both MJ (Alyska's mother) and I lost a parent this year and had someone to remember. The photos below are from the cemetery laying flowers at graves for family passed long ago and family not so long ago.



Stone Petals

Stone Petals

Planting (with apologies to MJ for the angle...)

Planting (with apologies to MJ for the angle...)

Those Recent

Those Recent

Prior to this, Alyska and I visited a very old family cemetery.

It was lovely being a part of this and capturing some photos for it. It's the kind of thing everyone hates doing in the moment - I dislike taking photos as I desire not to disrupt things - but is nice to see after when you do get a few impactful shots.

My family never really celebrated Memorial Day. We are bad at holidays in general and we've not too many veterans in the family nor did we do much to remember past family. I think we're more of a memento group. There were always artefacts from family in close proximity in the house - pictures, awards, etc - which translates to a sort of constant rememberance that dulls to mostalgia over time.

My Dad's birthday was Sunday, he would have been 70, and I only sort of recognized it as I was spending time with still-new family. Aside from the little guilt (there's always guilt) at realizing I didn't mark it specifically (we're bad at holidays). I did look through some of the hournaling I did in February while I was with Dad in his last days.

It's still a little fresh for a full-on Memorial Day, I think, and the artefacts around the house are still above a dull roar. We'll see how next year goes.