We read the play “Our Town” in my literature class last semester. It taught an interesting lesson. We are blind to life because we are blind to death. Why? We do not treasure life as the precious thing it is, because the presence of death is not continually before us. It is not our fault, necessarily, but simply something we cannot comprehend. We all believe that we’ll die someday, far in the future, but we don’t go out every day seriously thinking that death could come at any moment. Our denial of death then, causes us to deny how precious life really is.
I made a movie a couple months ago called “Portraits of Johnny.” Johnny, in this film, knows he is about to die. Thus he is seen doing all those things that he loves most, namely, playing with his dog, playing his Wii, and reading his favorite book. The presence of death causes a transformation in us. The true and sincere thought that we may leave our home and never see our loved ones again causes a change. I believe I felt this somewhat before I left on my mission. I may be exaggerating this a bit for a situation like that, but I honestly feel like I had the “presence of death” on my mind in those last few weeks before I left. I didn’t really think I was going to die, but the thought of leaving loved ones for such a long period of time brought up the possibility in the mind that I wouldn’t see them again. I don’t know why. Two years seemed like such a long time. The last few weeks were spent in constant prayer, worry, doubt about whether I was ready, the constant need to be with people, the desire to bond with various family members and friends in an intensity and desperation I hadn’t done before. As if it was the end. I would spend hours staring at a blank wall, wondering what the heck I was about to go and do. I was in a daze, all the time.
Thus, I went on my mission. It was a grand experience, something I wouldn’t trade for all the money in the world. All my talk of “death” in the previous paragraph really doesn’t mean anything in regards to the mission itself, just the fact that I was leaving for such a long time, taking a leap into the unknown. I believe, truly, that what I felt in those last few weeks was a taste of the presence of death.
I don’t go out every day thinking it might be my last. Should I? Would I be somber and morose, casting a depressing gloom about me everywhere I went? Or would I be jubilant, because I know I am treasuring life as the precious gift it is? If I can’t believe that death could always be around the corner, then truly, I am blind.