Here’s a thought: If I knew today that’d I’d be dead by this time next week, what secrets would I want buried with me?
As I sat down to think about all the things that I hold precious, the physical baggage that I won’t be able to carry to my grave, I realised none of it matters as much.
A few weeks ago, I was on a trip with my colleagues. We were at a dam called Manimutharu, and although the waterfalls were too savage for us to shower in, we still explored the lower end of it where the water washed through polished and uncut rocks. I was climbing up one rock from the one I stood on and slipped. I fell face forwards into the water, right in between two big rocks. My head grazed the stone but missed a catastrophic collision by mere inches. My immediate reflex was to get back on my feet and protect my phone. But it took me a couple of seconds to recognise I’d lost my spectacles in the interim. It was a heavy current and all our efforts to find my glasses went in vain.
Now that was an expensive pair of spectacles. It was sun tinted with a cat’s eye frame. No one in my family liked it, but I’d insisted on it. I loved the way I looked wearing it and washed it every day to ensure maximum clarity. And it was gone.
To my surprise, I didn’t care. I knew I’d lost a lot when I lost my glasses, but it didn’t bother me at all. I was just thankful to be standing on my feet again.
That’s when it hit me. Even though I valued that spectacles so much, the experience of falling into the water changed my priorities altogether.
The moment I knew I’d escaped colossal accident, nothing material mattered anymore.
With that experience, I wondered again: do I have anything that I’d want to take away with me when I die?
It took me a while, but there was one thing I didn’t want my family to see: my diary.
When I started writing a journal, it was my emotional outlet. I poured out my happiness, sadness, pain, anger, and frustration to an inanimate character I named, X.
I complained about homework, summarised episodes of my then favourite television series, Robin Hood, and droned on and on about my parents. My family was in disarray, and I was going through a hard time. Every day was a struggle against the depression and self-deprecation that engulfed me.
It was an account of a disturbed teenager’s life. Now that I think about it, I took my inspiration from Anne Frank, one of the many Holocaust victims who died in a concentration camp. Her father published her diary years after her death, and it at once became a chilling reminder for the rest of the world of a time we all wish we could forget.
Although I read and appreciated Anne Frank’s thoughts and emotions, I never wanted others to read mine.
My journal portrayed me in the most vulnerable state I could ever be in. And years later when I moved out of my parents’ house, the diary remained there. I’d made my mother swear never to read it, but I’ve spent many days worrying for the secrecy of its contents. It disturbed my peace so much that I regretted having written it in the first place.
That’s the only thing I’d want to take to my grave.
But last week, I burnt it all.
My dad was getting rid of some weeds in his garden and wanted some papers to help ignite a fire. And as I watched years of diary entries crumble into ashes, I felt an incredible sense of calm.
I’m happy I wrote those emotions down—it was a physical way of letting them go. Now I’m also glad that all that I’d let go will stay gone forever.
If I die next week, I will take nothing but memories.
How about you?