“Live fast, die young, and have a good-looking corpse.”
This idea appealed to me as an angst-ridden teen. At the time, with the threat of destruction from the Cold War, increasing concerns about the environment, and my personal misery about my weight, I couldn’t imagine the point of living to any great age. I toyed with the idea of suicide, but I had one major problem.
I would never have a good-looking corpse.
This is the sad truth: part of the reason I never took the idea of suicide seriously is because it would have meant having someone see my fat, naked body in all its grotesque enormity. I simply couldn’t handle that.
Those memories came painfully to mind when I read the recent CNN.com article “What the dying really regret”. Hospice chaplain and author Kerry Egan wrote that of all the unfulfilled wishes people have shortly before dying, “the stories about the time they waste hating their bodies, abusing it or letting it be abused -- the years people spend not appreciating their body until they are close to leaving it -- are some of the saddest.”
I had never considered it that way before, although one of my main regrets does relate to my body: I was never able to climb Mt. Katahdin with my mom after my one trip at age ten. I always meant to. I just didn’t expect to run out of time so quickly, to lose that chance by age twenty-four.
I also remember seeing how my mom struggled with her body as she battled cancer, trying to get back to health and ability. It struck me that had I been in her place, I wouldn’t have known what that goal felt like, having no real memory of a time when I didn’t war with and hate my body.
That’s why, when I decided to lose weight and get in better shape, I had this as one of my goals: to know what being physically able and comfortable with my health would be like. I wanted to feel good about myself for at least some part of my life.
Since then, I have achieved that better health and so many other goals. While I wish I had not spent all that time and energy hating my body, I can rest easy knowing that’s no longer my truth.
And maybe I can help others get to the same place, where that is at least one regret they don’t carry to the end, or even to the middle, and instead spend whatever life is left enjoying the body they have.