“I wonder if this is as good as it gets” barks Jack Nicholson’s snarky character in the film of the same title.
The phrase is uttered at an almost seemingly inconsequential moment in the film, but despite laughing so hard earlier, the room was silent now. Sitting among family rarely seen, watching a comedy for life’s comedic relief amidst dark times. These seemingly innocent words echoed loudly through everyone’s minds — “I wonder if this is as good as it gets?”
The phone call came Thursday evening after work. “I didn’t want to tell you at work, and have that cloud hanging over you, that’s how I learned my father died,” my mother said to me as I choked on my own tears. My aunt and godmother passed away, suddenly. It’s the sort of thing about the impermanence of life which makes us sad to the point of anger. We begin to ask “what ifs” and consider the plausibility of how to circumvent something which is inevitable.
Death is inevitable.
It is the hardest thing we as living beings ever have to deal with. We grow, learn and adapt to things which are seemingly here today and gone tomorrow. We are left with only memories. It is the greatest existential crisis; the notion of impermanence and knowing that we cannot overcome that inevitability.
I looked away from the television screen and out the window at the wintery remnants of a rose bush. I had remembered that bush as it was full of life and flowers. I remembered that bush as it sat as the backdrop to my cousin’s wedding pictures. I remember that rose bush as it was the day I looked up at it towering over me, curious of its thorns. I imagine it now, less towering than before, but as it was when it once bore flowers. I remember that rose bush as it blossomed with life every spring only to die by the winter. And it’s only a matter of months before the cycle begins again. And many years from now when I am but a memory, that rose bush will continue to cycle life. As we die, life continues.
So often we spend our lives waiting for the perfect moment to truly live. We believe that things have a way of falling into place over time, but complain that time moves too fast. “I can’t believe how fast this year has gone by,” a family member said. They will likely say the same thing next year too around the same time. As we quickly approach the new year, the calendar resets itself and that inevitability comes closer to being clear.
Life moves quickly. But we don’t notice how fast time moves; only at the moments which it seemingly stops. Those moments where you pause your life to look around you at love, at family and the gift of being alive and say “this is as good as it gets.”