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©February 2003

Carol Jane Remsburg

 

 

 

 

The Reminder of Mortality

 

 















 

 

 

Death can find us at any moment of any day or night.We always know it will come but never exactly when it will strike.To those souls who pass it isn't often without pain yet we hope it is a passage into something greater and better than what we were.Those of us left behind are deeply wounded and the pain is long and sharp.

 

Every mother loves their child as every wife her husband and as every child their parent.With the loss due to an accident there is the shock; the ragged raw edge of a loss so sharp is dulled by it only to surge to the fore again and again as our minds try to grasp the unbelievable.We mourn long and hard with little solace other than the clasped hands and hugs that only the living can share.The tears we shed aren't simply a rain shower but an endless torrent.

 

Those we lose to an illness whether the duration be brief or long, there is never enough time and often too much suffering.Young or old or even middlin', when we lose our loved ones the pain is still a surprise.Sometimes the knowing of it doesn't help.

 

That's exactly how it's been this week.Three separate deaths, all unrelated except to me.

 

First, the mother of a dear friend is lost sooner than expected.The diagnosis of cancer was bad and in many places.There was so little time to make ready and give comfort.There was so little time to do anything.A mother is gone leaving heartbroken children and grandchildren.

 

Second, a young man, not yet to his fullest reach of manhood.He was gone in a few seconds in an auto accident.He was only 26 and filled with promise and love and the excitement of living.He was a son, a husband and a father, and about to be a father again.His wife works with me and the happy couple had just announced a new pregnancy only 2 days before.His mother sits right next to me and has mentored me since I was new on the job.She is a woman I admire and care very deeply about.Suddenly, he is gone.Devastation and shock rock the family and ripple in waves through all who knew him or his family.

 

The third is a young woman I used to work with.She and I are only four years apart, like my sister.And like my sister, this lovely woman had cancer and suffered horribly before she found release in death.Her only regrets were over leaving her daughter, aged nine, who suffers more fear and loss than any adult could face.

 

We can hate death and loathe it and mock it and hold our anger up front as a shield to protect ourselves from the pain.But it still comes and takes it due.

 

I know about death.And each time it reaches out and claims another I know or hurts one I do, it brings it all back; the hurt, the pain, and worst of all the desolation of real loss.Of knowing you will never again touch or hold or kiss or laugh with them ever again.

 

Somehow it opens old wounds, the deep ones.You find your only salvation is trying to comfort those who hurt now so that it eases yours; for loss is forever and always until our own time comes.Somehow our own is never that scary.

 

It's the memories that haunt me.Often we grow up and are sheltered from death.Then it seems to gang up on you all at once.

 

A grandfather gone before I knew him, but from age 8 through 12 there were 3 passings.There were two great aunts and a great uncle.I was sheltered away but felt the loss and the anguish with a buffer of loving attention by my parents.

 

Reality came later.

 

As a young adult and youngest of three daughters, my brother-in-law died at 36.No, not to an accident.He simply dropped dead.You wouldn't have known it to look at him but he had what was deemed "hardening of the arteries."Our parents were away in Florida that left just my sisters and me.

 

I learned quite a lot over the next few days.I learned that focusing on managing official things keep you busy enough to not think.I discovered how strong my sisters were and how much love we had for each other.

 

Three months later, we lost our grandmother through ALS.It was an ugly way to die and I adored her and it broke my heart.I thought I would never recover.The emptiness her absence made was profound in my life.The flashes of my sister with her newborn child and the brother-in-law I had teased and loved kept flashing up in my mind around errant corners when I wasn't expecting them.

 

That was about the time my parents decided that life wasn't supposed to be about duty and drudgery until death.It was a lesson they learned late in life, if 50's can be called such.They packed up, left the house to another sister, grabbed the eldest child and daughter, the widow, and hauled ass to Florida to be in the sun to begin to learn about having fun and living life.

 

They left on March 16th.Somehow they knew that life was short.Daddy died 15 days after his 58th birthday, June 19th.He had awaited our arrival to show off their new, sturdily built little home and to take us boating.All along he knew what was going to happen and wanted us there to take care of Mom.

 

And just as I was sure I would never recover those few months later that December, my other grandmother was dying a quick but very painful death.Cancer riddled her body and took her swiftly.

 

Come the next year I held out so much hope that life would right itself.May came along with a sister's wedding then the illness.By July 10th my mother was gone, with much pain, surgeries and hellish decisions left to be made by her children.She suffered.

 

A few months later, my middle sister gave birth to her 3rd child, another daughter who was as bright as the sun and filled life with laughter and joy.She was so compelling that my hubby and I decided to 'try again' to have a child.I finally became pregnant at 29 and rejoiced.At 22 months old, my niece drowned in a horrible accident.I wanted to die, my grief was so cutting.Then, a month and a half later, my middle sister, was the first to hold my child and held her close after an emergency C-section birth.

 

Six months later, my father-in-law passed with a brain aneurysm after a disagreement with my mother-in-law over who would sit my 4 month old for half a day.For two years, I was to blame for his death.And I had so loved him.

 

Death, death, death!It's a shock, one so profound and cutting that it makes you bleed from your soul and those wounds never seem to heal.

 

I still miss mine even though many years have passed.I will continue to miss them each day the sun rises.When my friends lose their loved ones I am crushed.Still I find succor in trying to help, to give comfort, and to love.

 

Death is a part of life as surely as each day dawns and night comes to offer us rest if we can embrace it.Death is our only true surety of this world, each of us owe it, we just don't want our loved ones to have to pay the price.Often we'd pay it over and over again if only they didn't have to.

 

Mortality is a given.It's up to us to decide what we will do with our lives.Be you 10, 20, 40, 60, or 100.If you breathe you can make a difference in this world if only to have fun and to live well.

 

After all, that's what it's all aboutóliving.If it's no more than enjoying a sunrise or sunset, a cup of rich coffee, a sleepy snuggle from a young child, then the ugliness of the outside world can be held at bay.

 

I hope you learn as I keep trying to, that the message of death is to savor life.

 

Don't live yours in vain or in triviality.Know your blessings.Be reminded of them daily without the pain; especially when the pain is always in the background.

 

Love to my friends, and hugs, and know I'm with you always.

 

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