I have a problem: I am constantly dreaming up horrible ways to die as though I were a scriptwriter working on the next straight-to-DVD installment of the Final Destination franchise. It’s not something I do on purpose, but it just happens. I could be watching a scene in a serious drama where a character is cutting vegetables on a kitchen counter, and I will start cringing in discomfort because I am positive that the next shot will be of them accidentally chopping off a finger and bleeding to death. Once when I was bowling with friends, one of the bowling alley employees went behind the lane and up into the pinsetter machine to fix it. My friend, not knowing someone was back there, bowled his next ball, and I shouted in horror, convinced that I was about to see bowling alley employee blood raining down from the pinsetter in a gruesome display (he was fine). I cannot handle watching circus acts without a net or live stunts on television where someone crosses the Grand Canyon on a tightrope or jumps a motorcycle over a row of trucks, because I can only picture the horrific splatter of a trick gone wrong.
I’m not sure where this problem comes from, besides probably having seen too many horror movies in my life. Our bodies are so fragile; we’re walking bags of blood and organs that must be constantly functioning and the whole mess is held together by a fairly thin layer of epidermis that can easily be pierced or lacerated. Sometimes it seems like a miracle that we’ve even made it to adulthood. There are so many things out there that can murder us: crazed gunmen, out-of-control vehicles, flash floods, forest fires, malfunctioning roller coasters, pandemics, sinkholes, ice crevasses, serial killers hiding in haunted houses, falling pianos, snapping ziplines, psychotic chimpanzees, exploding airplanes, killer tanning beds.
When I was younger, I had a very flippant outlook on death; I wasn’t afraid of dying. Not necessarily because it seemed so far away, but because it was so far out of my control, I didn’t feel the need to worry that much about it. As I’ve gotten older, the feeling that time keeps slipping by became much more pressing. I’m approaching middle age and realizing how many more things there are left that I want to do in my life, with increasingly less time for me to do them. And on top of that, all that remaining time can quickly be lost in one fell swoop by accidentally slipping on a wet bathroom floor and landing head-first on the toilet seat.
The upside to these overly elaborate and incredibly far-fetched death scenarios is that they give me a sense of urgency to fully live my life now. To not take for granted this time that I have to spend with my loved ones. To tackle goals now instead of putting them off for the future. To take care of my body and mind, but also to not deprive myself from life’s pleasures. To not stay at jobs that make me unhappy. To not force myself to continue through the last terrible season of Sons of Anarchy just for the closure because that’s precious time I’ll never get back. In reality, most of us will die at an old age in a hospital bed or nursing home in very normal, non-headline-inspiring ways. But just in case, I’m not going to leave any vacation days unused. I’m also going to triple-check my harness in the event that I ever try ziplining.
So thank you Devon Sawa and the rest of the Final Destination cast. I’m going to go play outside and enjoy the beautiful day. But I’m not going anywhere near a lawnmower; those things can suddenly explode and send spinning blades careening at all of your vital arteries.