The past three years I have been learning a lot about death…My first experience with death was when I was little and my Nana died. I never felt that anyone loved me more without any judgment or questions than that lady. She was a saint to me and a fighter throughout her whole life. I loved her so much and felt so close to her growing up. I remember being in my living room when my mom told me she was very sick and we needed to pray for her. I remember praying very hard but getting tired and falling asleep. She passed away that day, and I just knew it was my fault for not praying long enough and not praying hard enough. It was so impossible being at her funeral and seeing a body that resembled the person you love, but wasn’t them at all.
I forgot about death for a long time after that. But I knew that it hurt, and I hated it, and it wasn’t anything I could control, which I think is the scariest part.
When my pastor died, a man I had respected, looked up to, been in awe of since I was a baby. When that happened, I learned death can happen to anyone..and can come from seemingly no where…and can leave no explanation or reason and ten billion questions.
A few months later I lost my Uncle who went into the hospital to have a procedure he had had before, and no one expected a different outcome. I learned that death can leave someone without hope…that someone can be swallowed whole in a dark cave and not be able to find their way out for years, if they let it.
A year and a half later a friend from high school died. I learned that death is no respecter of youth, and that it hurts so much more when someone does not have a long life, but it can change people and restore a passion for life and a passion for God that wasn’t there before. It can inspire and push people to redirect their entire life…
A few months after that it was my Grandfather. And I wasn’t very close with him in recent years, but I had so much respect for him and the peace that he always had about him. He had this stoic authority and calm every time I saw him. I know that he is so peaceful now and without any suffering. I know my family had peace surrounding his death, and I look forward to seeing him again in heaven.
This past June I lost my cousin. I really can’t explain what it feels like, but you develop these relationships through your life that even when you don’t foster them on a regular basis, you find comfort believing that they will always be there. In my mind my cousin was always that same boy playing pranks on me and his little brother when we were kids. He was still that same boy so excited about hide and seek and Christmas and so annoyed by me and his younger brother. He was still the father that adored his two little boys, and the man who fought for our country bravely. When I first found out he was gone I thought of all these things and couldn’t accept it, he needed to stay this person, he needed to always be there. I had so many ideas of the future and him taking care of his little boys and doing more incredible things with his life.
And today my Grandpa…I can’t write about him right this moment, but I will.
I think now about being in the ICU and seeing death from an outsider’s view. Seeing death how it effects other families, and wishing I could do something more every time. Some families are so calm, so acceptant, and so ready. You can tell they do not view death with any negative connotations, but just another piece of living, just another step in the process. Some families are hysterical, to the point they can’t answer your questions or look at you or process any information. Some families are angry and need someone to blame, and you wonder if that person is yourself. Some families are thankful for your support and the care that you gave. Almost every family member tells you what they should have done differently, and how they could have changed the outcome.
I think about death as a first impact sort of thing. When it first hits me, I feel crazed and confused, and determined to fix it. I start replaying in my head everything that they tell me happened. I break it down piece by piece and I try to reassemble it in a way that changes everything. And when I realized nothing can be changed I try to shake myself out of a horrible dream, because I’ve had those dreams before… And next I just cry…or stare blankly…or fall asleep and try to reset everything. Thoughts just stop, and my body doesn’t function. It is the worst time in the world. And then comes the aftermath and prayer and reminding myself that God is still God. That I don’t mourn as the world does. That I do have hope…but that doesn’t make death or grief easy.
I know that God is greater than death, and healing exists, and the greatest hope is that we will be reunited with our loved ones and those that have gone before us. I have faith in this.
But I have learned a lot about death. I’ve learned things that scare me. I’ve learned things that have made me stronger. I’ve learned how to speak to people and how not to speak to people. I’ve learned all the paperwork and post-mortem steps.
But I think what I have learned that is most important is that death can be a beautiful thing. Sometimes you have these people who are suffering and hurting and worn down, and you think about all the peace they will have in the next life. How they don’t want to be here anymore. I believe there truly is a time to die, and it’s not something we should be against. I think Paul described it beautifully in Corinthians when he said while we make our homes in our body, we are away from the Lord..but we would rather be away from our bodies, and be at home with the Lord.
I have learned it’s okay to die. It’s not a failure or a conclusion. It is the greatest success and continuation.
James 4:14. Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
Love you Grandpa Ham. Wish I could give you one more hug and kiss. I’ll be seeing you again.