A Suspense Story: Our Lives

One of the downsides of dying is that it can be like failing to find out whose hand gets asked in marriage in a romance novel or which of the semifinalists you have kept track of in a beauty pageant, horse race or ballgame will win. This may sound morbid, but sometimes while I am reading a gripping novel I pray that if I do have to die suddenly, let me at least get to the end of the story before I get to the end of my own. (Do you think like that too or is that just me?)

There are more personal stories people are afraid of missing out on, such as a grandchild’s wedding, a graduation, and so on. Then there are those matters, which differ from completing a crossword puzzle, seeing the outcome of a bet or missing a holiday, that are further out into the future. I will most probably have to content myself with not finding out if extraterrestrials exist or whether humankind will ever be able to transfer in a pinch to another planet, or whether the Beatles will endure as many centuries as Beethoven.

There is yet another kind of loss, and that is missing something or someone versus missing out on something or someone. Even though presumably the former is not possible once we are dead, we do and can anticipate such  losses beforehand. Besides loved ones, this might include any ongoing part of our lives, such as appealing food, travel, uplifting music and so on.

I suppose what people would miss or miss out on depends on personality and priorities. How about we make this post a workshop and see? That is, to be on the honor roll, you have to participate! I will even go first so you can work up some courage: Besides friends and family, I think I would most miss being out and about in obedient nature (That is, I am fine with setting aside forceful winds, flooding and immoderate temperatures.); chocolate of course; writing posts and collections of stories; and satisfying my curiosity about other people’s life stories. As far as what I most probably will miss out on as opposed to missing, as I just mentioned, I wish I could know if there are extraterrestrials and what they would be like. What might their values be? What might they understand and not understand? What might we learn from them and them from us? (At least as a consolation prize, I can answer these in the fiction I am writing these days.) In general, I will miss out on whatever technological advances are in store for humankind, and how and whether worldwide problems such as mental illness will ever be eliminated or at least better managed.

As I started this post, I did not completely think through what I would list beforehand. This is the genuine deal. What I learned, and least anticipated listing, was writing. This makes me reflect on how valuable it has been in making my life an adventure through the interaction it has generated. I relish all the comments I have received on this blog, emails and Twitter for example, and of course all the feedback on my book.

Now it is your turn, in the comments below, to try out this exercise. You might find out something new about yourself. Not only that, you may become more aware of who and what is most important to spend time on now. And who knows? Perhaps seeing each others’ answers below may increase our awareness in unforeseen ways. Care to join in this experiment?


Announcement: The Angry Coffee Bean Café in North Arlington, NJ on 89 Ridge Road will present “The Spoken Word,” my writers’ group first public event. Eight writers (some published such as I) will read from various genres. The event starts at 6:30PM on Monday, November 10th.

My “how-to” guide to writing a eulogy got published in the LA Jewish Journal Oct. 15th:  http://www.jewishjournal.com/expiredandinspired/item/biographer_for_a_day


8 thoughts on “A Suspense Story: Our Lives

  1. Cathy Baird says:

    This may sound like a “thinking” answer, but it’s a “feeling” answer. I believe that when I die, my incomplete knowledge will become complete and whole. Thus I will not be missing out on anything. (There’s also the possibility that I will no longer find “how did it end” questions important.) I will be able to see the big picture and understand how everything fits together.

    As I began to check in with myself about this answer, it felt right. I also noticed that it’s possible that I will miss some things (as opposed to missing out). For example, the physical sensations of touching and being next to friends and members of my family; maybe the feel of wind, the sound and feel of water, and the sight of clouds. But maybe not. Maybe these are actually glimpses of what I will encounter after death, rather than being something I will miss.


    • Your answer has opened my eyes to add a third influence upon our answers besides personality and priorities– that of our assumptions about the afterlife. You have exposed me for the “agnostic” (as someone had put it) that I am concerning the hereafter. If you are right, then you have also undermined the entire premiss of my questions!! That is, perhaps we will not miss or miss out on anything at all, or even be concerned with it. Will there be much bigger fish to fry? At any rate, whether you turn out to be right or not, it seems this exercise can clarify our beliefs and enrich the part of our lives which is more certain, namely, the here and now and our remaining years alive.


  2. Consuelo M Beck-Sague, MD says:

    Some of my great regrets informed this really fun process. I regret that some of my dearest friends and patients missed the miracle of combined antiretroviral therapy. It would be a drag to die before there are definitive cures that can be implemented to large populations and can bring HIV to its knees. I would love to live to see the end of HIV, the racial infant mortality “gap” in the US, the opening of the prison doors in our country. I know how King, Harvey Milk, Mc Arthur, and the visionaries that dreamed of the end of the great European wars would have felt seeing Obama as president, the Supreme Court supporting gay marriage, a non-militarized Japan, the European Union. So I would hate to miss the Israel Palestine Bi-national Union, the Caribbean Union, the United States of Latin America, the United States of Sub-Saharan Africa. All that stuff could happen, probably will. I’d love to be around to see it. I’d tell the kids how it was in the old days, the way I tell the pediatric residents now about H. influenzae type b, pneumococcal invasive disease, Reye Syndrome… “You can say I’m a dreamer. But I’m NOT the only one!!”


    • Thanks for your thoughtful reply. The political angle of your answer compared with mine shows how our priorities and interests govern our answers to this exercise. As far as a United States of Latin America, you may be amused and/or gladdened to know that in a soft science fiction story that I am writing, Uruguayan Spanish has displaced English as the primary international language. Arriba!


  3. In this physical experience we feel like something is missing when we are not connected to the Universe through meditation or prayer. Upon death the illusion of separateness will not be missed.


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