The First Time I Thought About Death

I remember the first time I thought about death. I was squished between my mom’s best friend, Beth, and my little brother’s car seat. #middleseatlife

It hit me like a punch in the gut. That’s what it felt like actually—a punch in the gut. I was bending my body over, holding my stomach, as if I’d just been wounded by some big bully’s fat fist.

My body was riddled with terror. My mind was riddled with thoughts of nonexistence.

“What happens when you die?” I thought. “And when will I die????”

Shoot.

I must have been 6 or 7 years old. I didn’t sleep a wink that night. I just laid there in bed thinking about: death.

I didn’t tell anyone. I just sat there. Ready to puke at the sight of my own shadow.

Sometimes that punch in the gut still hits hard. Even now, knowing that my mom has already carved the path for me, I get a little bit freaked out when the plane shakes.

But unlike that 6 or 7-year-old version of Kate, I can see the good in death, too.

That’s the cool thing about aging. Although we are getting closer to that fateful time, we are also starting to understand it. Maybe even accept it. Maybe.

Most of existence is propped up on the avoidance of death. Even the things that are supposed to help us cope—they breed even greater terror.

But I say: why avoid it?

You’re going to feel the fear; that’s okay. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about here. We all are a little scared.

I can only see upside in facing death head-on, in attempting to reconcile mortality with reality. In attempting to heal that little girl that’s realized: “this part isn’t forever.”

Kate Ward