Death, mortality and coincidences

Flowers of goodbye

On February 14 2013, my uncle passed away from a sudden heart attack. He survived the Mayan apocalypse from 2012 and also survived many other “end of the world” dates. But it came to that day when he ceased existing.

His sudden death took us by surprise, since he was still young and seemed well being. It was curious that at his funeral, people were talking about his current life and would-be future. How everything was finally clearing up and soon he was going to have a life without problems. As if his death was a bad joke on his desires and dreams, or as if he knew his end was near and prepared for it with the patience that he always portrayed. “He had finally paid all his debts” some said. Yes, he had some rough time after two failed enterprises and rough times without contracts. “Big contracts were finally coming up” was another quote I heard. I even found myself saying things like “he reconciled with me the last time we met” like if he knew he needed to set things clear and make peace with the long religious debates we had on Facebook posts.

I wonder why this remarks are made. Were all those just coincidences we put together to give some meaning? Would people say the same things if he were still alive? Did he felt the same way about all those things as we felt? I wonder if he knew better days were coming and if in his last breath he pleaded for more time to enjoy them. I know it is a terrible thing to think about, but as terrible as it sounds, it makes you think about your own last moments on such an unexpected goodbye.

One never knows when you will cease to exist. Some tough questions come to mind: Will you feel comfortable with the life you’ve lived so far? Would you regret something? Right now all I can say for sure is that I would definitely beg for more time. As an atheist coming from a catholic social environment, it is tough to accept the fact that one will simply cease to exist. No after life, no second chances. This is it. So you might never be able to see a human trip to Mars, or the next big technology breakthrough, your family members’ next step in life, their children’s children and so on. You might not even be able to do that thing you’ve always wanted but always postponed.

Reading on my uncle’s Facebook feed, I saw a post from November 2012. An old friend of his was asking him about a dinner they had been postponing for several months, and he wanted to check if they could finally make it the week after. I can’t stop thinking if that meeting took place or if it got postponed once more and they never had the chance to see each other again.

Ironically, some other things were brought up as well as his missed well being. It turns out we found out that he was very sick and he didn’t got the medical attention needed. He never talked about feeling bad or complained about anything. I remember him always smiling, always with his sarcastic humor and talking with a patience and calmness that a Tibet monk would envy. But he was ill and maybe even he didn’t know how bad it was. If he had the chance to live more years, maybe it wouldn’t be a pardon but a burden. He was resolving his financial problems and personal problems with everyone, but has his son mentioned, maybe all that new money will drain away in medical care costs and all that while enduring enormous pain and suffering. So, again like a twisted joke from life itself, a quick stroke was, coincidentally, the best way to leave this world for him at the right moment.

Given the same chance, would I prefer a quick part or a slow decaying life dim? I’ve always been scared of loosing my mind. My mind is all I have, it’s all that defines me. It scares me that someday I’ll be too weak and old need help to eat, walk and go to the toilet. I’ll also forget more things that I normally do nowadays. Would I prefer a long life with a deteriorating condition or a quick sudden death? I’m sure a long deteriorating life would be easier for my family to accept and deal with, I had that experience with my grandfather. We all wanted him to stop suffering and rest. When he passed we were relieved for him and thankful for his life example and his lessons. On the other hand with my uncle we had a hard time accepting the fact that he was gone, like if he owed us all more time, lessons and experiences.

Ash, sea and flowers

So what would it be for me? Would my last actions be interpreted as preparing for a good bye? Will I be given the chance to say good bye to my friends and family and tie up loose ends in my life? Would they be coincidences, interpreted as such, or planned moves? All I can say right now is that I have to live a good life so I can earn being remembered nicely by the people that surround me, and those I can reach indirectly. Being remembered is very important to me, since, as I mentioned above, this is my only chance to exist.

Making a difference in the world to be remembered is not just a motivational idea, it’s a duty and the only way to have a meaning.

By Gabriel Saldaña

Gabriel Saldaña is a web developer, photographer and free software advocate. Connect with him on and Twitter