I was asked the question, “what has death taught you about life?” I had no good answer at the time and I’m not sure I know the answer now but what I can say with certainty is that if I had not lived it I would not have believed it. And maybe my journey is not to find the answer to that question but to live each experience and discover the meaning of each lesson learned. I hope at some point in my journey I will find that life can still be full and amazing despite death and loss.
Let me first start by saying it’s been difficult at best to recount the last few years and even now as I try and pen the events leading up to the present day I can hardly believe all that has transpired. It’s the amazing resiliency of the human spirit in the face of adversity that has carried me this far – if I had stopped to really consider all of what was occurring at the time I would have definitely packed it up and hit the road long ago in search of greener pastures my first choice would not have been this desolate dirt road.
My Mother’s death in December of 2010 was heartbreaking for me personally. She battled cancer for nearly 10 years and I watched as that horrible disease robbed her of her life – cheated her and my Father of their life together, cheated all of us – her family. My Mother could be difficult, obstinate and sometimes down right unlikable. I became a primary caregiver during her lengthy illness and I would not have missed one moment of it. She was more to me than just my Mom and some of my most cherished memories of her occurred during that time. Our conversations that exposed her vulnerability, sharing her fears, her own missed memories, her laughter – her joys and her regrets. She left behind a legacy of courage and strength without even knowing it. She also left behind a friendship that she and I shared – she would have provided a safe refuge for me when I lost David – I still miss her every day. My Mother-in-law succumbed to cancer in January 2011 sadly we had been estranged from my husband’s family for 15 years and were not made aware of her illness, her loss in our lives was no less painful – for me.
My greatest loss in life by far has been (and always will be) my beloved husband in January of 2012. His death made no sense – a healthy lifestyle, a clean bill of health from all of his attending physicians – did not prevent that evening in January from becoming my ugly reality. Cardiovascular disease is silent and swift, I know what the medical journals record but it doesn’t alleviate the guilt or the questions when someone you love dies unexpectedly.
I would then lose my charming, loveable Uncle in July 2012 just as sudden and just as unexpected only six months after David’s death. He and my Aunt were just settling in to enjoy that long awaited time in life – when hard work and careful planning allow you the luxury of retirement. Death had once again cheated those that I loved – a life well deserved. The following month [August] would bring a deeper heartache to all of us when my cousin committed suicide. I would not have the capacity to love and support my extended family in their time of sorrow I could hardly touch my own grief at that time in my life. I did however have many family members [even as close to me as my siblings] who let me know of their disapproval of my decision to not actively participate in the aftermath of her death. It was never for lack of want – to be loving and supportive but I came face-to-face with the ugly rage of grief and I was still so broken myself – I retreated. I am still devastated by her loss of life. Little did we know that when [My Mother’s sister] my Auntie was admitted into the hospital for what we were told was due to complications resulting from a virus – that we would lay her to rest in March 2013. Death had come one more time suddenly and unexpectedly.
I was lost and not managing David’s death very well – the frequency of death that surrounded me and filled my world only helped to foster my feelings of despair and hopelessness. It was the support and compassion that I so desperately sought that continued to be elusive and completely out of my reach. For the few that I did hear from during that time I realized quickly that the, “hi how are you” was not meant as an inquiry but more of a polite segue to their endless account of what was wrong in their world. My world was shifting and so were my relationships as I had known them. Death had dramatically changed all aspects of my life – adapting to those changes was the beginning of what I have come to know as “healing” in these past 2 years.
Although I am still learning and still striving to become healthy and whole I have been able to discover that death has helped me to see what is worth trusting and loving and wasn’t isn’t. I have gained a greater appreciation for life and all of it’s possibilities allowing for small glimmers of hope. I am able to see the blessings in my life and celebrate my victories, big and small. I choose to move through each day with a heart of gratitude. And to those who complain to me – now, about things that are important to them but essentially trivial in context, I can only reply with; “enjoy every minute of it. Enjoy the luxury of being able to complain about the mundane, the ordinary of life, see each small and petty annoyance as a blessing in disguise. They are the sum of things that make up your world and give you the life you have. And – Death does not make those things irrelevant; Death makes them a celebration.”“When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure” -unknown