That Thing Where You Remember You're Going To Die One Day

by Sara Farrell Baker
RomarioIen / Shutterstock

A few months ago, I was walking around Universal Studios with my husband, my sisters, and my brother-in-law. We were on vacation, sans kids, and having a great time. Riding rides, eating junk food, yelling spells at random passers-by.

As we were walking one night, laughing and enjoying each other’s company, someone brought up something about death. So I mentioned that thing where you are going about your business, and suddenly out of nowhere, remember you’re going to die one day. You know, that thing where your brain panics and you can feel death reaching its cold, clammy hand toward you with no escape?

Anybody? Just me?



About once a week — sometimes more, sometimes less — I remember that, one day, I am going to die. And it makes my heart speed up a bit. Maybe moving me closer to my inevitable demise? Bodies are jerks.

Then I remember that not only am I going to die, but everyone I know and love is going to die too. A lump starts to form in my throat. My temperature rises a bit. I feel uncomfortable and a little nervous. And I realize that once everyone who ever knew me dies, my memory dies with them, and it will be like I never even existed. Cemeteries across the world are filled with the graves of people whom no one visits and no one remembers, and that is the inevitable fate for all of us and everyone we have ever loved.

And then I have a mild-to-moderate freakout until I can find something else to fill my brain — usually a Beyoncé song or something. No one is ever going to forget Beyoncé. She’ll live forever in the hearts and minds of the masses for generations to come. Beyoncé is so damn lucky.

I don’t have an illness or condition that makes me feel like I’m going to die particularly soon. Most people in my family live long enough to get to say really inappropriate shit without anyone scolding them for it anymore, so that’s comforting. I do get hyperaware of the possibility of dying in certain situations. I am super fun to fly with. The moment I board, my seatbelt is buckled and stays buckled until all wheels are back on sweet, sweet land again. A cocktail or two might help, but then I would have to pee, and my irrational fear has lead to a tightly held belief that if the plane is going to go down while I’m on it, it will go down while I’m in the bathroom so that I hit the ceiling and my pee goes everywhere. Dying in an airplane crash after falling 35,000 feet with my pee splashing all around me is pretty much the worst way I can imagine going out.

So no, no cocktails on the plane for me.

But while death is scary, it’s all the stuff that comes after that makes me go full monty on the anxiety. Or rather, the lack of stuff. That’s the part that makes my rational brain and my irrational brain go to the mattresses with each other. When my husband and I had our wills done, he was so cool about it. He’s ready to donate his body to science and let med students learn how to take out spleens and stuff because what the hell is he going to do with his body once he kicks it?

To my rational brain, this sounded like the thing to do. It is beneficial to others, preserves resources, and is all-around pretty cool. Then my irrational brain creeps in and starts whispering things like maybe I should just donate my organs and have the rest of me cremated. Then my family can scatter my ashes somewhere neat like a beach in Hawaii or keep me in a fancy urn on their mantel. But then my irrational brain gets louder and more irrational. Hawaii is probably going to be swallowed up by the ocean because of global warming and what if my kids have terrible taste and I’m kept in an ugly urn?

One day, no one will be alive to visit my scattered ashes in Hawaii, or my urn will end up at an estate sale and I’ll get dumped in the trash with kitty litter and leftover Chinese food. A few minutes in and my irrational brain is screaming that I need to have my brain frozen in a cryo locker and spend all of our retirement savings on the biggest mausoleum money can buy.

Then I need to win the lottery and put in my will that any of my descendants receiving their inheritance is contingent on weekly visits from them and their children and their children’s children and so on for all of time in perpetuity. Also, I should maybe look into having a sex scandal with a prominent politician so I’m immortalized in infamy. No press is bad press if you get to quasi-live forever.

Wills are super fun. Highly recommend that depressing-ass process.

(No, seriously. You should have a will.)

Freaking out about death is something I am likely going to be doing up until the moment I actually die. That is kind of a sad thought. But seeing as I don’t see my brain getting more rational or my rational brain learning to ovary-up and telling my irrational brain to CTFD, I can at least take solace in the fact that if I live a long life, I’m going to feel exceptionally prepared.