Not Ready to Die?

Not Ready to Die?

Jean-Pierre Bellemare  File: Criminality

Right now, I have no thoughts of suicide.

Having lived a tumultuous life, I’ve often found myself in danger. Sometimes, it’s been police who wanted to shoot at me; other times, it’s crooks who thought I didn’t show them enough respect. To that I could add bad drivers who put all of our lives in peril. It’s at those existential moments that I ask myself… am I ready to die?

There was a time that the answer would have been: yes. Was it out of courage, rashness, or just boredom with life? I admit I never followed through on that answer, even though I’ve questioned my self-worth since I was born. With every close scrape the question re-emerged: how much do I want to live anyway?

Today I am out of prison, but even as a free man, I’ve taken on some yokes that make me uneasy. Material possessions, emotional ties, they all make me feel dependent and vulnerable. When I was behind bars I considered these to be burdens, each one its very own ball-and-chain. I’m soon going to reach the 50 year mark of my life, and I’ve achieved practically all my goals. A few unexpected achievements made me gain a bit of maturity. Should I ever stop my awe and wonder at what life has to offer?

I no longer search for which way to turn. My road ahead is clear. Feeling happy; spreading this happiness to others so that they, in turn, feel they can make others smile.

I haven’t made many people happy. Some, perhaps. Did I hurt others voluntarily? Yes. Did that motivate me to do good? Did it dissuade me from doing good? No on both counts. I was satisfied with who I was. There are people who never bounce back from a criminal act, a traffic accident, a miscarriage or a separation. What can we do? Try to reassure, to comfort, to make them feel secure by lending an ear and showing support. Beyond my wish to repent, to feel sorry for what I’ve done, it’s beyond my control. If someone doesn’t want to forgive me, they condemn themselves to living in sorrow and hatred.

In life we choose our battles, and I’m incapable of loving my neighbor. But now I am ready to die because I can, effortlessly, transmit my well-being to those who I encounter on life’s road.

My spouse is an ardent Christian. She wants everyone to study the Bible. If traditional religion motivates you to do well and to help others, all the better. I too am a believer, but my faith is not blind. When I see people smile when I’m helping others, I’m convinced that mine is a winning formula.

If I succeed in making some people just a bit happier… I’m then ready to die. But before that, to all those who are genuinely honorable people, I say, thank you. On that note, have a great year. Whenever you come across a pitfall, use your personal trampoline to jump over and away. To those who do good, I give my best.

 

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Jean-Pierre Bellemare, an ex-con, has received two major Quebec journalism awards for his magazine writing in Reflet de Société. He lives in the Eastern Townships.

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