The Complexities of Life and Death

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A heavy sigh greets me this Friday. So many thoughts swirling, suffice to say, death seems to be a recurring theme this week. So far, I’ve heard of the passing of two people with whom I have known remotely. They both lived long, productive and healthy lives, which makes their departure less shocking, but sad nonetheless.

The other death is one that is impending (aren’t they all??) It involves cancer and with someone who is much closer to me, and oh, it’s painful. I spent some time yesterday crafting a letter to this person, as I wanted him to know – while I am still able to communicate directly – that he is cared for and loved and his contributions to our family are greatly appreciated and not without notice. It was gut-wrenching and I spent a better part of the day bawling my eyes out over the impending loss and what that will mean for my family.

We are a society that does not deal well with death – on any level – even though it’s the one known inevitable outcome for every single living soul on the planet. I was visiting with some girlfriends last evening who were lamenting about attending an upcoming event for a colleague with cancer. They wondered “how” they would approach it. Based on the week that I’ve had, I offered this piece of advise: go in with the positive outlook that you are privileged to share their life, and recall happy times WITH THEM, versus waiting until they have passed to share memories at a funeral or other life-reviewing event.

Shouldn’t we all have a life-celebrating party while we are still able to comprehend the value and enjoy the people in attendance?

I remember a time, years ago, when my father – who continues to read an actual physical newspaper cover to cover each and every single day – shared an article with me. I remember staring at the black and white newspaper photo of an elderly woman, popped out of the top of a limo, in wild celebration. She had a huge smile on her face, and in her aged hand extended skyward was a champagne flute filled with a bubbly concoction.

It was her husband’s funeral – and she was celebrating his life. There were no tears – just joy. I remember marveling at that photo, wondering silently if I would be able to do the same thing? It was an odd concept – showing happiness in the face of death – who does that??

My dad looked at me and said, “When I die, I don’t want anyone crying. I want you all to have a party and celebrate the fact that the old bastard is finally dead.”

We laughed, of course. And now, all these years later those words still permeate in my brain.

“When I die, I don’t want anyone crying. I want you all to have a party and celebrate the fact that the old bastard is finally dead.”

In fact, I’ve envisioned myself speaking at his funeral, without tears, sharing funny stories about him. Yet it doesn’t matter, the thought still brings tears.

Death brings tears. And joyful memories. And if we’re lucky, an overwhelming feeling of love. I will carry those thoughts with me as I continue to walk in this journey. Especially with what’s on the horizon.

Go in love, my friends, for in the end, it’s the only thing that lasts beyond this realm of existence.

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2 comments to The Complexities of Life and Death

  • Bruce

    I agree completely with your pops. No tears, just smiles. If I’ve lived “right”, I’ve left some little thing with the people I’ve touched. Deep thoughts for a Friday afternoon sitting at the airport.

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