Hello Dazzle! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I want to talk to you about death. I am aware that this is a difficult topic for many, but it is because of those emotional difficulties that I think we should be talking about death and dying more. Because death changes everything. Our own deaths only impact us in their anticipation. The deaths of strangers, loved ones and acquaintances will likely be events that all of us have to deal with at some point in our lives. Living when these people have died will change us.
The first time I saw a dead body it didn’t seem real. I hadn’t met the person while they were living and that made it impossible for me to imagine this inanimate thing moving, speaking or laughing. A dead body is more a kin to wax when you never knew the person that used to reside within the flesh and bones that now lie empty. I was a student, learning to be a nursing aid. They wanted all of us to experience what it was like to be around the dead. I left that experience thinking that death was empty and hollow. What I had yet to learn is that there is a large difference between seeing the dead and attending to the dying.
Being at the bedside of someone who was dying changed me forever. To see a living, breathing person evaporate and leave behind an empty doll was to finally understand what it meant to die. This was something that could not be captured in words, but only felt with that pressure at the center of my chest and the slight unease in my stomach. I had only known her a few hours. But that was enough to become a witness to her ending. That witnessing changed me forever, because it was in that moment that I really understood what it meant to be mortal.
Over the course of 25 years, I have seen many people die. Each of those deaths were as unique as the people that left this world. Some were ready and others were not. There were those who slipped away peacefully and those who left in torment. Family attended the deaths of many while many died alone. For some, this is what they wanted. While for others, they would have preferred it be the other way around. For each of these deaths, a fragment remains. Something that clings upon me and has changed me forever.
When my grandmother died, I thought it would be the most difficult way that I would have to face death. I was wrong. I had loved her all my life. She had always been there, a constant presence that I could rely upon for reassurance and love. The haven from life’s storms. When she died, it was like loosing home. Now she is woven into everything. I see her when the red posies bloom in the summer. It is her laughter that I her when I see the children playing. Every cup of Red Rose tea has a generous portion of milk and a splash of grandma memories. Her love has saturated everything. That wound, that she left inside my chest, is still raw and bleeding. I expect that it will never heal. But this is not the worst that death has to offer.
While my grandmother was in the active stages of dying, I received the news that my nephew had died. A child. Only 17. He was a stranger to me, since he was being raised in another country. But I was hit hard by the cruelty that the universe had dealt to my sister whom I love. Since I did not have a passport, I could not go be with my sister in her time of grief. There is so little that you can say over the internet and phone when someone has experienced such a life shattering loss. Difficult to be present when you are thousands of miles away. We did the best that we would could with those awkward phone calls and text messages to convey our love. But they felt empty.
But death knows many ways to cut at that place inside our hearts where we hold all that is most dear. Getting the news that my friend had lost his battle with depression and had died by suicide was such a laceration: deep and jagged. An ugly thing that will never heal. Every memory tainted with the doubt and regret that we had failed him. The haunting truth of how terrible things had been that he had decided that ceasing to exist was the better option. Knowing that I will now have to live my life wondering if he knew how much I loved him, because I had never mustered the courage to tell him. All the things unsaid between us are now written on the walls of my heart in the bleeding ink of regret.
In the past three years, there has been a procession of deaths that the proceeding years had not prepared me for. Death has found its master piece in pandemics. Like an assembly line we have been zipping up the body bags while gripping tightly onto that place in our chest, always afraid that those unnamable feelings will seep out when we aren’t ready. You are never ready. They come in the night with the cold hands of dreams. Snatches of conversations from the other room pull you to the past when those patients were still speaking. Songs over the radio remind you of the love that was lost when that zipper slid up over that silent face.
Too many people to know them all. Faceless strangers without names that march into your world struggling to breathe and then sliding out in a plastic bag neatly zipped closed. Loved one who never got to say good bye wailing on the phone when they received the news. Watching the terror drain away as their life seeps out to where every that living stuff goes. Always leaving us with this empty vessel of meat and bone. Meaningless now that there is no soul. Yet we cannot leave it. Carefully packed and labelled, it is put into the fridge. Just another tidy package.
Death changes everything.
How can you not reconsider what is important once you have sat with death? He is a visitor that demands that you evaluate your life and your priorities. There is nothing that changes the way that we think and feel about living the way that being present for the dying does. When we accept death and dying into our lives, we are also accepting our mortality. When we see another human die, we also see our death being fore told. Death is our reminder that there is no opportunities to be had but those that we are holding right now.
Each time a person passes from this world, they take with them an essential piece that can never be replaced. Those missing pieces leave wounds that never heal within the hearts of those who loved them. There will always be the moments of wishing you could say one more thing or have one more embrace. Habits will find us turning to tell them about the funny little thing, only to find them still missing from our lives. Yet this wound is a treasure. For it is the slot that once held a magical piece of the universe that will never exist again; a piece that blessed you by living within your heart.
Death changes everything and grief lasts a life time, yet love makes it worth it.
Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!