We begin with nothing but blank pages. Yet, even while in the womb, we start to write our story. The prologue to the book of our life is created as we form in the darkness. And then, violently, we are born. Taking our first breath, we cry out. At that moment, we put pen to page and record the first line of our first chapter.
We aren’t aware we’ve begun to write our saga. We don’t even realize we are on a journey. This revelation doesn’t occur until much later. But with our first cry, we wildly slash, leaving a bold, daring line across the pristine sheet of paper before us. We are. We make our initial mark. And so, we begin to fill the pages of our book.
Our first poopy diaper. The first time we roll over. Our first smile. The day we discover our own arm. The first time we crawl. Take a step. Run. Outgrow that poopy diaper. Say our first word. Our first day of school.
Chapters are written and they can’t be revised. Or replayed. Nor can they be undone. Time writes with indelible ink.
In a weird twist, we forget our story even as we are writing it. Who recalls the exact moment they first tottered across the living room floor without falling? Who can remember saying their first word? And who recollects the first time we excitedly ripped our hand out of that of our parents, running onward without them? We achieve, but continually move forward. One step follows another until we no longer recall from where we have come. Blank sheet after blank sheet, filled, written, then forgotten. We turn the page and keep writing…whether we want to or not. What we do each second creates a line or paragraph within our book. But most of those minutes are lost almost as they happen. Only the major milestones are remembered. And often, they are only recalled with difficulty.
We catch and release. Moment after moment, lived and lost.
We fill in the blanks as we carelessly fill our empty pages. I was born in _______ city. I grew up in a house on _______ street. I got my driver’s license ___ days after I turned 16. I graduated with a ____ GPA in ____ year. My first real job was at ______. My first car was a _____. I was ____ years old when __________ kissed me for the very first time. My first love was ___________. I got married when I was _____ years old on _______ date.
We write chapters with increasing speed. The memories are lost even as we live and create them.
We fill in the blanks. We fill up the blank spaces. But we also blank out large chunks of our life. We blank out the pain; the painful memories. We erase from our minds large portions of what we have written. We run from our own story. Or deny we have one.
We create a chronicle of our life, chapter after chapter, year upon year. We don’t foresee the end. We never know when time has decided to leave us behind. We don’t realize we are writing the final word upon that last page; not until the pen slips from our hand. We grasp for it, but in vain. It tumbles and falls silently to the floor, empty, used up.
We don’t know we are taking our last breath until suddenly, we fail to take another.
That last page? I can’t tell you what it’s like. I’m not there yet. And no one lives to share their experience. Even if they did live to tell, it’s very different for each one of us. We reach that page at assorted ages, in dissimilar conditions, at various stages of life, and in a variety of ways (car wreck, cancer, heart attack…it’s a long list). We are in differing states of mind, at a distinct place emotionally, physically and spiritually. No two of us are alike and our final moments are as varied as snowflakes.
The last page, the final breath, the last word we write is very private event. For this is a journey we make alone.
Everything is finite. We all have an expiration date. We don’t acknowledge or comprehend this when we’re young. We don’t truly grasp it until we gasp in our final lungful of air and exhale for the last time. Then we know with absolute certainty.
Suddenly, there are no more blanks. Nothing exists beyond that moment. Every experience we will ever have has come and gone. Lived and ended. Every moment allotted to us has been spent. Every blank has been filled. There will be no more firsts. No more memories to record. Nothing for us to struggle to remember as it slips away. No memories whatsoever. It’s as if we have been erased. As if our book was written in disappearing ink.
When we fill the one remaining blank – the date and time of our death – our story, good, glorious, or heartbreaking, is complete. Someone else will add “The End” to our closing page when they say goodbye for the final time, then turn and walk on without us.