I’m Not Scared of Death, But I Can’t Stop Asking This One Question

Jonathon Larson’s “Tick Tick Boom” has left me wondering

Kelly Eden | Essayist | Writing Coach
Invisible Illness
Published in
9 min readApr 11, 2022
Photo By AntonioDiaz @ Adobe Stock Images

I assumed the throbbing pain and loud clicking in my shoulder was a simple injury from a fall, but the physio suspects some underlying condition and insists I head straight to the emergency department.

First though, I head home. I let my husband know, grab a notebook, reassure the kids, make sure the cats are fed, and drive myself to the hospital.

As I search for a carpark, the final scenes of a movie I watched last night with my oldest girls run through my head.

As musical lovers, we decided to watch Tick Tick Boom. It tells the story of writer Jonathan Larson, and his struggles to produce a well-received musical.

Larson was 35 years old when he died. 8 years younger than I am today. Since watching the movie, I can’t seem to let go of a question it brought back up for me.

It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times since being diagnosed with an immune disorder 15 years ago:

If I die today, have I done enough with my life?

Like many artists and writers, Jonathan Larson died before witnessing the impact his life had on the world.

It was after midnight on the night of January 24, 1996, when Larson returned home from the final rehearsal of his musical. He’d been experiencing severe chest pains all week, but doctors reassured him it was a virus or food poisoning of some kind, and he’d pushed through to finish what he’d started years earlier.

The following day his show would debut at the New York Theater Workshop. It was finally happening, everything he’d worked so hard for.

He stood in his kitchen, making a cup of tea before bed. Moments later he collapsed on the floor. Larson died of an aortic aneurysm that night and never saw the opening of his now famous show, Rent.

People with chronic illnesses like myself, or surrounded by friends with chronic illnesses, as Larson was, know death has its own schedule.

It used to scare me more than it does now. What scares me most isn’t the actual dying, but dying before I’ve done…



Kelly Eden | Essayist | Writing Coach
Invisible Illness

New Zealand-based essayist | Personal Essay Workshops | @ Insider, Mamamia, Thought Catalog, ScaryMommy and more https://becauseyouwrite.substack.com/