Monday, April 23, 2012

It's a lazy Sunday evening. Dusk has settled, turning the dampness outside into a sea of diamonds refracting the prism of the streetlights. If I hold my breath I can hear the faint patter of rain on the window glass. I'm waiting for the kettle...listening to the gentle murmur of the radio that eternally plays on in my kitchen. I'm one of those people that rises to coffee and music; take them away and I function awkwardly.  I spend hours alone in this room, roasting and basting; with flour on my nose and the scent of fresh basil and lemons lingering on my hands. I absorb the world through the voices that keep me company. As I stand lost in the swirl of my own thoughts, something slices through...a phrase captures me.

Quite a remarkable idea actually. It's a service...of sorts. The tag line of the site, "Bridging Mortality." It promises to pass on critical information should you perish unexpectedly. You create an account and begin the process of writing letters and attaching files. To your boss and co-workers--passwords and messages. For loved ones and family they suggest final wishes, bank account notices, love notes....and unspeakable secrets.

What would I have to say? If I knew I had only tonight, that dawn would bring my death. What letters would I write? To whom? What have I left unsaid? The crushing weight of conviction dimmed the damp light outside. I looked down, tracing the pattern on the edge of my empty mug. More has remained unspoken than should.

The hours of the night left me time to examine this. Why has this compilation, this pocket of unvoiced thoughts and anger and sadness and love....why have I let it accumulate so? As I sifted through memories, I lingered over ones still tender. Life does indeed persist--despite our deepest wishes in the midst of anger, pain or devastation. Even perfect joy doesn't last no matter how I clutch and cling. The ocean of minutiae surges daily to engulf us in waves of living. We breath, we eat, we lust, we fight, we love...

And we leave so much unspoken.

This site, you set your "check-in" times--daily, weekly, once a year. If you miss one they will attempt to contact you. After a while, your "death switch" is triggered and the letters sent. Watching the light of the new day creep through the trees...I wonder how people decide to wait, to hold onto these things that are critical enough that they must endure past their final breath. I wish I could read some. What naked honesty must lie in the digital memory of that site. What insight into the soul of regret and repression. What could be so vital and yet simultaneously trivial that you can live with it unknown...but you cannot die that way.

The house is chilly. The sounds of early morning surround me...groggy children, the distant thud of a closing drawer, the dog wants out. I brush my teeth. Pushing the sleeves of my robe up, I wash the night from my skin. And I stand there. My reflection with no make-up, no pretense. My hair tangled from slipping into bed with it damp, my faded freckles visible. Not as the world sees me, but how I truly am. I'm appalled that I have an unspoken file. I believe so strongly in honesty with love and truth with integrity....and I have been mute.

The gurgle of brewing coffee draws me downstairs, ruffling my eldest's hair as I pass. I will tell him that the point of the lecture--of every lecture--is just that I love him. I will write my best friend and confess how much I miss her.  My mother, that I want to be closer. I will whisper into my husband's ear that petty arguments are never worth missing a single night of the bliss I find in his arms. Cherish my neighbors, appreciate more...confront.

I will de-activate my death switch.



Shelly said...

Mmmmm- the aromatic depth of your words awakens me to openly consider the things I've only contemplated behind closed eyelids in the path of oncoming sleep. Thank you~

Shrinky said...

What a curious site, and yet in some ways I understand it could also provide a measure of comfort to loved ones left behind.

My children all know how fiercely I love them, but as busy teenagers, young adults, they are far too busy and much too cool to allow me to often sit with them, and to express the many reasons WHY I love each separately. Individually. Uniquely.

A quick, "I love you" doesn't cover it. Anything more tends to receive an impatient roll of the eye.

I don't feel the need for a site to store what I need them to know, but I have secreted away my personal, individual letters to my husband, and to each and every one of my children.

I like the thought they can be left with something solid of my joy in them, a written love-letter of my special memories they gave me. I like that it may comfort and warm them, can be taken out and re-read when the world feels cold.

Lyndsay Wells said...

I wonder if there are people who change email accounts and forget they left stuff there. Do their final thoughts get sent out before they are actually gone?

I like your way much better :-)

Wonderful read as always. I loved the part about your kitchen and could almost smell the basil.

Shea Goff said...

In order to deactivate my death switch I will need to leave a comment here which says, It was always a pleasure. You seemed to have a knack for writing the unexpected but needed. Your tales you weaved, those moments you allowed us to see, they, without failing once, hit home.

Out on the prairie said...

A site with some warmth to some but morbitity to others.A legacy of thoughts left behind.

Robbie Grey said...

What an interesting idea. Although, personally, I think it would bother me to receive correspondence from my mother, grandmother, or gone friends. See, I'd want to respond, and yet, they'd ultimately have the last word.

ND Mitchell said...

This made me think. It's true that there can be so much unsaid. I read comedian Michael McIntyre's autobiography recently and he talks about how after his dad died suddenly, he found a letter that his dad had written and never given him expressing how much he loved him and how much it meant. Your writing, as ever, is so thought-provoking.

Brian Miller said...

in some ways this is interesting to me...the keeping of letters for them after, but then again it begs me to wonder why i did not say it when i had is what i leave unsaid that scares me the most you know....

terlee said...

I find this concept sort of...creepy, and truly sad.

That there is a website for settling your affairs, revealing your secrets and relating your last wishes--on the internet--after you've slipped this mortal coil is the creepy part to me.

And Deathswitch..?? Holy crap, Stephen King could write a bestseller on such a concept.

The sad part? We can do all these things before we're gone. Granted, there might be some secrets that for whatever reason can't be told in the here and now, but our loves, our feelings and thoughts, how we want the people in our lives to know these things, to remember us? Those should be voiced, touched, not left to an email message.

Mary said...

It is really interesting that you would put this on here right now because I found another site that does pretty much the same thing and have been writing emails to my family members for about a month before I put them on the site. The site I found is

They pretty much do the same thing that the site you found does. That's so interesting that we both were looking into something so similar.

Chantel said...

Shelly--that sentence was beautiful.

Shrinky--the idea of these secret letters of yours warms my soul. Such will indeed become a cherished treasure--far, FAR in the future, mind you. xo

Lyndsay--wouldn't that be a shocker depending on the material revealed! lol (and thank you--some day we should share a cup of tea and cook a meal together, that would be lovely)

Shea--that was one of the nicest comments of all time. Thank you.

Prairie--I wonder what that legacy is?

Robbie--lol, the last word indeed, why doesn't it surprise me that you would feel this way?! ;)

David--thank you. What a treasure such a letter would be, but imagine the years of different memories if that letter had been sent. Perhaps how much richer their time together would have been. I suppose I like the idea of a letter left...but only if the contents were also told and shown in life.

Brian--yes, the unsaid can be terrifying...hell, my thoughts scare me regularly.

Terlee--amen. I'm setting my sights on emptying my "unsaid file" before anything happens to me. lol

Mary--lol, this was inspired by an article on the radio which grabbed my attention. I'd never heard of such a thing and while I do want to leave something for my kids to read over and over--I also want to make sure it's just an echo, that they've heard every word as often as I can cram it into the day. As far as my sisters and friends...I do have some things that need said. I'm challenging myself to do it now, face to face...waiting till I am gone would eradicate any chance of a change in the relationship, you know?

Anonymous said...

Chantel, this post is so lovely and heart-rendering. You have a knack for adding elegance to life.
and we are given the pleasure to
read your thoughts.

Lo said...

Being older than all of you (85) and having done much of this on a private blog for the use of my cousin, the successor Trustee of my trust, I must say that I think many of you are misinterpreting the use of these sites.

You may need to tell your boss where you have hidden the keys to the file cabinets, your spouse or children of a secret safe deposit box you maintain, your exact wishes for the care of your pets when you are gone......a million little things to make it easier for those you leave behind. We always assume that someone in our lives knows everything that needs to be known, but that in not at all true.

This idea, though seemingly creepy can be very important.
For family and friends you can leave letter if you wish, but that isn't what this service is for. Think about it and I think you will understand.

Lo said...

I must add a little P.S.

This blog is beautifully conceived and written. I love your writing Chantel.....which brings me to the important thing I forgot in my previous comment.

Onr of the greatest things you can leave your loved ones and friends is access to or hard copies of some (or all ) of your Blogs. they are the perfect representation of your inner thoughts and feelings....if you want to communicate after you are gone....leave your Blogs for remembrance.

Anthony said...

I think there are several companies which now perform this service...Excellent blog post.

Pigasus said...

Being beginingless and endless with all of you, I have to say this amazing! They say that the monk and the warrior confront death, and the warrior is the one who can kill, while the monk is the one who can be killed...what a way to move closer to this great experience!

Anonymous said...

Ummmm....HELL NO!! Haha, once I go tits up, so does my laptop and all my passwords. Are you having a mid-life crisis to be so deeply thinking about these things?

Mel Heth said...

Oh Chantel this post is so timely for me. I'm sort of at a loss for words. I loved this line you wrote: "What could be so vital and yet simultaneously trivial that you can live with it unknown...but you cannot die that way."

I've been thinking about all the things people need to document before they die. Thank you for opening my eyes to some I hadn't considered.

Chantel said...

Paige + Shauna--thank you.

Lo--this is a great point, you're right about how much we assume others already know. I suppose I thought with those "check-ins" and all, unless you had a daily one, the boss might not be able to get into the files for a month or two! lol Thank you warmly for the compliment, and I've just started printing everything I've written. :)

Anthony--thank you kindly.

Pigasus--indeed. I think?

BamaTrav--is that what this is?

Mel--since you posted Loss, you've been on my mind. I think this whole idea of the world going on without us...spins me a bit. Considering what I want to leave behind...and what I want to make sure I don't, has given me much to consider.

Anonymous said...

Maybe ;)

Kelley said...

This is so moving! So thought provoking. I have never heard of this business. I can see the point in it, but I also don't like that I have something hidden that will only come to light once I'm gone. Hmmm... You are making me think. :)

Sara said...

I absolutely loved this. So many times we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life that we forget to appreciate what we have. It reminds me of something I wrote to my sister today. "You can not change the past, or speed up the future. You can only choose to live fully in this moment. So, look at the sky, drink in the stars, and swim in the sunlight." Thanks for this reminder! :D