I believe it spares no one to avoid conversations about mortality.
When I was still in college back in the dark ages, I went with my mother to visit a favorite aunt in the hospital. She’d been taken suddenly ill at a bar-b-que and I thought she’d be discharged in a day or so. But after the visit, on the way home, I was told that she was dying and may not live even a few more days. Everyone thought it best not to tell her. I hated that. What if she had things she wanted to say to people? What if she had preferences? What would happen to all her stuff, her bowling trophies, her leather tooling? The only good thing about her funeral, as I recall, were my uncles together throwing a priest out the door for saying she couldn’t be buried on sanctified ground. I ask you, what isn’t sanctified ground? Doesn’t the Bible say God created all and declared it good?
My mom says I shouldn’t think about death much less to talk about it but we lose people all the time. Now my uncle is dying, and so is my cat. One moment I am trying to get my poor old skinny cat to eat something and then next I hesitate because I don’t know if I’m torturing him trying to keep him alive. For what purpose should I be trying to keep him going? Does a cat know that he’d rather live than not? When he looks at me purring, is he saying “Let me go” or “thanks for trying”? On the other hand my uncle can talk but he won’t. He’s going through it and doesn’t want to think about it. It’s just as bad wondering what is going on in his mind, but he’s a thousand miles away and my cat is here on the sofa.
There have been many more horrible deaths, tragedies, millions upon millions for centuries upon centuries and I’m whining about a cat. Still, this isn’t a contest over one grief being more painful than the other. Find the grace to accept the sacredness in life, all life. It is good, and it is holy. Monumental grief will not bring any one back, much less millions. Tears, anger and posturing won’t keep any one from dying, either. We need living love here and now.
Do you have regrets about not saying things you should have when you had the chance? Me, too, and I don’t want that to keep happening. This advice isn’t new; tell your loved ones how you feel now. Visit people, be present. And just in case my departed friends, relatives, and pets are listening, I miss you. I’m sorry I wasn’t a better human, and I wish you’d tell me what the other side is like. Make up a story if nothing else, and forgive me.
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