Death of a loved one is sometimes anticipated—with the elderly or after a terminal illness. Sometimes death is unexpected—with a suicide or fatal accident. I’ve spent decades pondering which is “easier” for the loved ones left behind on Earth. Is it “easier” to have the time to prepare?
I don’t think there is a right answer, and of course when someone you love dies, it is never easy.
Although analytically we know that we will all die one day, it is a concept for which most of us don’t give a lot of thought. We live our lives—educating ourselves, falling in love, pursuing our dreams, and navigating the waters of our lifetimes. We experience triumphs and disappointments. We engage with others and hold our own counsel. We worry about things we can’t change and sometimes resist changing things within our control.
But we don’t generally expend energy thinking about dying—unless a loved one is presented with a potentially terminal illness or the mileage on our own body is impacting its travel worthiness. We might have fleeting times when we focus on death—when we have our last will and testament drawn up or when we discuss our Five Wishes with a partner or friend. But we generally don’t spend a lot of time discussing death.
…But death comes to all of us. Whether we’re ready or not. Whether our loved ones are ready or not. These thoughts came to me recently as a loved one of mine is nearing end of life. The elderly body that has served him well for decades has become a difficult partner.
As my loved one’s life winds down and my thoughts turn to pondering death, my life goes on.
As life marches on, stories emerge of people experiencing discord within their families. Petty differences keep relatives from connecting as a family. Thoughts of death are far from their minds as they dig into their positions of “being right”. Of course, all the parties may have decades to resolve their differences or just days—one never truly knows when their last minute on Earth might be.
The juxtaposition of my loved one bravely living life instead of dying against a backdrop of discord that others are willfully creating causes my heart to ache for all of them.
But that’s part of living, isn’t it? Choosing one’s path. Sometimes stoicly, sometimes petulantly. It’s an important lesson—one that many of us learn and relearn many times over in our lives. A death or impending death causes us to look at life from a different perspective. If we’re lucky, our loss also brings a richness to our lives. Being reminded of the preciousness of life, we can embrace what our loved one can now only do in spirit.
We embrace our human-ness and live.