The other day while on a walk, a friend of mine asked me, "At what point in your life did you realize what mortality was?"
I paused and said, "I think when I was 14 and diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes." Though I hadn't yet truly begun to feel the weight of carrying a chronic illness day in and day out, hadn't truly even understood what it means to be so young and so sick, I still did, while lying in that hospital bed for 4 days, realize that anything in the fucking world could happen and you never think it's going to happen to you.
Later, I thought to myself, Wait--no, I learned mortality when I was 12, right before my grandfather died. I learned it while he was still alive, in the hospital, as I looked into his open eyes and the lights had gone clear out of them. He was so far away that he couldn't even see me standing over him. Gone, gone, gone, though his body kept going a while.
Months earlier, while he was quite sick but not yet dying, I picked blackberries from the bush he'd planted with his rough, carpenter's hands decades ago. I carried the berries in my own soft child's hands to his bedside and fed him, as he could no longer feed himself.
Then, No, mortality was introduced to me when my dad had a heart attack. I was 10 years old. When my mom got the voicemail from my dad's girlfriend to come to the hospital, that it was an emergency, I ran through the hallway of our house trying to find my coat and yelling breathlessly, "Is he dead?! Is he dead?!" to which my mother could only reply, "I don't know."
No, wait; it was when I was 5, in the kitchen, alone. I grabbed a sharp butcher knife and sliced my small, left hand wide open in the space between thumb and forefinger. My dad drove me to the hospital after wrapping my hand with one of his carpentry rags. I kept pulling the rag off and looking at this deep crimson pool of my own blood, sobbing, and asking my dad over and over again, "Am I going to die, am I going to die, am I going to die?"
But, now, I also think perhaps I was born knowing of mortality.
That I agreed to it before even entering this world.
And that we all don't quite know how much we know.
Sarah is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia who still gets antsy when she proclaims out loud that she is a writer. She deliberated whether or not to call herself A Writer in this bio for longer than necessary. But she is a writer, damnit! She writes things! Some of which can be found at www.coffeeandinsulin.com .