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August 11, 2004 |

Dear Garrison,
My name is Adam, I am 17, a student, living in London. Life seems so unpredictable to me. At the moment, the main topic on my mind has been death. I had never really come face to face with death before, and within this past month I have attended the funeral of my good friend's grandfather, and visited my own in hospital. I would call myself a Christian, but at the same time I have human thoughts and emotions about death. My mother tells me sometimes God's message isn't always clear, but we should look for it in those we love and look up to. Could you help me to understand this fear of mine? Best regards and prayers,

Adam

Adam,
What we have to fear in behalf of 17-year-olds is that feeling of flatness and despair, depression, emptiness, that may hide under the cover of detached coolness and that can set off self-destructive behavior, binge drinking, the whole panoply of dismal unhappy-making pharmaceuticals, suicide. What you are feeling, the fear of death, is sort of the opposite of that, and is a result of your heightened sense of life. The knowledge of the beauty of this world is intense in you. Your eyes are open, all your senses, the power of the mystery ----- maybe as it was for me a few years ago the night my daughter was born and I held her, a little six-pound creature, bright dark eyes, tiny fingers and legs moving, and afterward I walked around Manhattan in a terrifically heightened state of awareness, every block and every corner showed me some amazing thing, I looked into every human face with intense wonder. And I was terrified of death at that moment, hers, my wife’s, my own. With the feeling of great blessing comes the fear of it being taken away. You can pray for peace and understanding, you can read the Scriptures for insight into these things, but try to push yourself to live life fully and proceed confidently in the direction of your dreams ---- pursue the truth and put yourself in the presence of beauty --- and when death comes near, you won’t feel fear entirely, you’ll also feel gratitude for your good life. Thanks for prompting me to think about this.

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