After Death

My co-worker and fellow blogger shared this article with me in which the columnist challenged people, in the new year and the new decade, to look at a few things through fresh eyes. The writer listed 52 suggestions, one for every week of the year. This week’s topic is death.

Before 2010, death had pretty much left me alone.

My two grandfathers had both passed away, years apart — one when I was 3 years old and one when I was 19.

Being a preacher’s daughter, there were lots of funerals I attended growing up, but most of them for people I didn’t know well.

In high school, a classmate’s dad was killed in a car wreck, and we all went to the services to support our classmate.

My senior year, a high school friend was driving in a wreck where a person was killed. My friend and I went to that service to be there for him as he was grieving the loss that he had, in some way, been responsible for.

So two grandfathers, a friend’s dad and a bunch of strangers had been the sum total of my experience with death.

Then, in 2004, I experienced the first death of a friend. My childhood friend Bryan died of cancer. He was 25. Way too young for cancer and way too young to die. The impact felt huge. My own mortality became real. No one is immune from cancer, I learned. Not even a 25-year-old good-ol’-boy Army sargeant and newlywed like Bryan.

Death stayed at bay for a while, but this past year I dealt with the deaths of both my husband and my grandmother, within a few short months of each other. Let me tell ya — as much as I missed my grandfathers or mourned for my friend who lost his dad or even mourned Bryan, death became the most real to me when I was the one planning the funeral.

I started writing this earlier in the week, and since then my high school best friend’s dad passed away. I went Friday to the visitation and saw my friend and her family. I saw my friend’s dad lying in the casket and nearby a display of pictures from his life. I last saw him about three years ago at a birthday party for my friend’s children. I have fond memories with him in it, as I’m sure his three children and others do.

I stood there, in the same room where I received mourners nine months ago, listening to my friend tell me what happened with his health and how this time the doctors couldn’t fix it. “I hate death,” I thought. I hate what it does to the people left behind. My friend and her siblings are missing their dad and having to deal with hurting over that loss, and with missing him, and with frustration with some of the details left behind. My own kids are doing the same.

Death requires the most from those left behind.


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