10:08 AM - Sat 5.27.23
My friend Cary's dad died recently.
I'm not sure when I would have first met Cary's parents, Bruce and Janet - during the run of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Barn, I imagine? - but I've known them for decades (When they would come out and visit for the holidays, Cary always made a point of inviting me over - We had a lot of Thanksgiving meals together over the years. I also stayed at their place once when they lived in D.C. and I had a theatre audition there).
They were always very kind to me, treating me like one of the family. They were interested in what was going on with me, and always "in my corner", taking pride in my career accomplishments and sympathizing with my struggles.
I'll miss having them as my "surrogate parents" (His mother is also in poor health - it seemed she'd likely pass before her husband until his health declined precipitously - and I don't imagine I'm going to see her again before she passes).
Then a few days ago, I learned that John O'Neill had died, early in the week.
He was a year younger than I am.
John was the assistant manager of the Borders where I worked for the better part of the first five years I lived here in L.A., and one of the kindest, funniest people I've ever known.
And this morning I found out that Timothy Borrow, who I went to high school with, has died (We weren't close, but I remember him and his family - His Dad had a store where he sold used furniture and the like, and I used to buy paperback books there for a quarter a piece, to feed what was then a voracious appetite for reading,).
The obituary said he was class of '81, but that doesn't seem right - He was slightly older than me, and I was class of '80 (And should actually have been class of '79, if I'd not gone to "retarded school", as I've always called it, instead of starting first grade).
Why am I sharing all this death with you?
Because it scares me.
Because of my circumstances - having no relatives and few friends for most of my life, in addition to moving from home to home as a foster kid - "death" has felt kind of unreal to me, something that happened to other people.
For a long time, I think I felt like, not only was I never going to die, nobody I cared about was going to die either.
The most profound loss I've ever felt, to this day, was being taken away from Lydia DeHaven, my first foster mother, when I was about nine years old - I imagine that was as close as I've gotten to a loved one "dying" (By the time I learned of her actual death, when I was in my thirties - and it had happened over a decade earlier - I recall feeling a "twinge" of sadness, but not much more than that. And when my biological mother died more recently - early on in the process of shooting Acting Like Nothing Is Wrong - I felt a certain sadness, but I can't imagine it was anything like losing the person who'd loved you and taken care of you your entire life, because...that hadn't happened).
While I don't remember the day or the date, I remember the specific instance where my fear of/obsession with death began...
It was years ago now, but I remember being on Facebook, and an Atheist meme came up in my feed that said something like, "I don't believe in an afterlife - I'm not so self-centered I can't imagine the Universe without me in it".
Well apparently I was so self-centered that I couldn't imagine the Universe without me in it, because that meme hit me like a ton of bricks: I had what I'd have to say was my first - and so far, only - panic attack (It was almost as if reading "the Universe without me in it" was somehow predicting my imminent demise).
And things haven't been the same since.
And it's not just fear of my own death anymore. I'm now quite aware that Death is "circling in". And if I don't die first, it's just a matter of time before I start losing people I care about deeply, people in my very small "inner circle", people I can ill afford to lose.
And there's nothing I can do about it. It's just there, lying in wait for me.
Cheery thoughts, huh?
In one respect, I think I'm better off when contemplating my own death than I used to be.
For a long time, even after rejecting Christianity (While I think of Christianity as something I believed for "a hot minute", I was at least trying to be a Christian for years) my indoctrination was strong enough that I feared dying and going to Hell for years afterward.
(This just struck me: While I feared dying and going to Hell for years after rejecting Christianity, I don't recall ever being comforted by the idea of Heaven while I was a Christian. I don't know if that's because I never felt I was a "good enough" Christian to go to Heaven, or whether the idea of "Heaven" was just too vague for me to grab hold of. And as I write this, it occurs to me that the answer to that either/or question could actually be "A little from Column A and a little from Column B".)
Now I've shaken that fear of Hell - I feel pretty certain that, if there's a deity of some sort, it ain't Yahweh, cause he's kind of awful. And I've never feared any non-Christian versions of "Hell", because no one's ever used them to scare me into submission- my fear of death has gone from something fairly "rational" (If death is followed by eternal, fiery torment for someone like myself, it makes sense to be a little skittish about dying), to something decidedly "irrational" (If death is just "the lights going out" for good, then I'm not going to be "missing out" on anything - I won't even know I'm dead - so what is there to be afraid of?).
I think part of my fear of death at this juncture is actually more a fear of dying - I fear the potential pain and suffering, and, in addition, fear I'll be doing it all by myself - while the remaining, irrational fear of being "gone from the Universe" is just evolution (I'm the descendent of people who really wanted to be alive after all, or else I wouldn't be here).
And I know a part of the fear I've felt in the past was a fear that "time would run out" - When I was young, I had "forever" to find love, to have kids, to have a hugely successful acting career, to make some kind of "mark in the world".
And then suddenly I didn't.
But in recent years, I've come to realize that time has all but run out already - it's exceedingly unlikely any of the things I hoped would happen in my life are going to happen - so my thoughts these days are more turning toward what I can do with the life that remains, and trying to shake off fantasies of being the next Tom Hanks, or even the next Don Knotts.
(Don't be confused - I'm still open to the possibility that metaphorical lightning will strike and a really good thing, or things, can still happen. But at this point, it feels like it makes more sense to assume I have what I have and it's up to me to make whatever I can make of it.)
Not too much is required of me moving forward. All I really need to do is keep myself fed and watered, stay out of traffic, and do what I can to be happy and stay connected to people somehow.
Because, one way or another, the "death" part will basically take care of itself.
(Till next time...)