by JAMILA RIZVI
One of my dearest friends is facing the very real prospect of losing her father. And when I spoke to her on the phone yesterday I was – for one of the first times in 26 years – actually lost for words.
You see, I’m good with words. I’m an avid talker. I write for a living. I can bullshit my way through any meeting. I’m the first to give (often unwanted) advice to my friends. I’ve never lived alone because I’d go crazy and talk to the walls. I used to be a speechwriter – I mean, words are my most bankable talent.
But yesterday, I had nothing to say.
I don’t think about death very often.
I’m not religious. Partly because I’m too literal to believe in the unseen, partly because my parents didn’t raise me that way and partly because I’m lazy.
When you’re religious you’re forced to think about death on a regular basis. A firm and considered belief that there is something more after we die, requires an intellectual engagement with what that might be. Religion also tends to involve a whole lot of rituals and obligations that mean you’re regularly encouraged to revisit and reflect on what death means.
Atheism brings with it the luxury of not really having to think about it. But it also means that when death does come hurtling into your world – you can be caught unawares and left ill equipped to cope with what’s happening.
Right now – when someone I love is facing the scariest moment of her life – I feel like I have nothing to give and no way to support her. That’s because I rarely, if ever, take the time to actually think about the prospect of death. And I’m a lesser person for it.