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When Death Comes...

Last week was a hard week. Two car accidents involving my mom and son. My daughter’s brain tumor scare and losing my tenant. She was only a tenant for 17 days. She passed last weekend, I didn’t know that then, I only found her Tuesday.


I have been awash with so many emotions. Sad, despondent, fearful. It has inhibited my ability to write. I didn’t have the words to share, I was caught in an endless loop of feeling. No clarity at all, just sadness over the passing of someone I barely knew.


It was the manner of death, the timing and the circumstances that hit me so hard. It has taken me the better part of last week to just feel like my feet are underneath me. I didn’t know what to do, who to contact and when. How do you participate in the transition for someone, when you barely knew them?


It brought up so many feelings for me...the main one being powerlessness, which I think I may have mentioned, I hate feeling. But a new, well not really new, but the way that I felt it, felt new, acceptance finally came to roost. Not just on the untimely death I was party to, but to all the circumstance in my life: my relationship, aging, my children and their very difficult teenagedom, my parents and their station in life, my career and its burgeoning, or not. All of the stuff, I received admittance to this new level of acceptance that I have not previously had access to.


Life is ever changing and for the better part of the last week, I could not sit still long enough to tap out my feelings, my fears, my hopes or dreams. I just felt stuck between the living, breathing world and the other one. I tried to make sense of how we all are given the same life qualities: body, breath, function but how those things play out for each of us, so varied and mixed.


We all get a body but we don’t all get a healthy one. We all get a mind, but again, not always a healthy one. And without a healthy mind or body, life proves to be so much more difficult...


Then the circumstances of life come, our experiences, sometimes those are grave and unforgiving, and other times we are elevated beyond our life station by circumstances that bring us to higher and higher ground...


But we all start off the same, each of us accumulating cell after cell, until we are formed enough to born unto the world. And then once we take that first breath, even though we have started out relatively even, everything is up for grabs. Some of us have congenital issues that rule and dominate our lives. Some of us are healthy and thrive. Regardless though, we all enter the world, with a will to live and a chance.


It is hard to watch someone squander their chance, to allow life’s circumstances to grind out our will to live. To allow the flow of life to pull us under until we are no longer here, even if our body remains.


Eventually, when the will for living ceases, so does the body's. And that is why she left last week. A long struggle punctuated by pain and perhaps some recovery in there along the way. But her life, perhaps cut short, perhaps lived way longer than she wished, now ended. Her life’s story over and I barely knew anything about it.


It is so strange to have this intimacy with someone you barely know. To be the one to call to action all those personnel required when life has ended. To be in a position of control, even while I felt so completely powerless. To be involved with the intimate pain of those who loved her and wished so very much for a different ending.


My pain and suffering paled in comparison to theirs. But palpable nonetheless...grief gives no one a pass, you can try to out run it but grief always catches you and takes what it will.


Her death has caused me to re-evaluate my own life. A good inventory this last week about what is working, what I am avoiding and what I fear. All the ways I show up for life, and all the ways I don’t.


Her death was not in vain. It has taught me plenty. I have felt things long removed. I have worried and stressed over so many things that just are not important when death is your companion. I could not articulate this any earlier. I needed the processing time, I needed some perspective that comes when you gain a little distance from death and its effects. And I took it. I cried and felt sad and ponder the meaning of life...and I improved the quality of my own life in the process.


So I thank her. I thank her for the grueling gift of self reflection, of a juxtaposition from which to compare my own humble being, and living. We know not when the time for us shall come, some of us get a long goodbye, some of us have a tragic, sudden ending. Hers was both somehow...


But her life impacted mine in ways I do not yet understand. I remained honored for the experience to love, to serve and to witness. But I also am confounded and confused by the proximity of aid, and the complete failure of aid to assist.


I wish I would have known more, I wish I would have paid closer attention. I wish, I wish, I wish...which is all one can really do when you find out things way too late. Wish for a different outcome, and then after all that futile wishing is over, perhaps maybe I will find acceptance for this too. She will not still be dead next-door, and I can begin to let her go to some other place more much suitable. For now, she haunts me, I feel her still, even though I know in both body and spirit she is long gone.


When death comes, we can never really be prepared. We are just left to deal with death’s aftermath, the grueling, unkind tasks required to end one’s tethers to this whole living business. And to take what we can and use it for living. To take what death reveals and find some utility, some purpose, some value to those of us still here. Praying, that those who have left us, suffer no longer. To better understand that we all do the best with what we have, and no one, no one ever squanders the time they have, I think instead, some of us, just have more time than we have stamina for living.


And so I take that with me as I move forward with this whole life business...and wait for when death comes again.



I did not remember that Mary Oliver wrote a poem with the same title, until I was done and looking for a photo to post. I post hers, because it is so much better...

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