Dealing With Death
“How do I deal with this? a friend asked the other day, as we talked about the death of his friend, at a very young age.
And, I don’t know. I’ve lost friends, relatives, people I work with, neighbors, people I’ve admired, so many people in my life. After all that loss, you think I would have figured it out, and knew the answer to his question.
But, I don’t. I explore my relationship with God, I contemplate the Universe, I search for my place in the world, who I am, where I am going, my own death. I sometimes I think I have answers, but I also still have questions, big questions.
The questions nag me in the middle of the night, or when I have a thought reminding me of a loved one who has died. The other day, when my friend asked me this question, his eyes tearing up with his pain and his loss, and his quest for the answer to his question. My usual full bag of advice and counsel didn’t produce a ready answer.
Great poets, great writers, great artists, great theologians, and me and my friend keep coming back to the pain, the questions, the wondering.
Some say there is a plan. Yet, the work of the angel of Death seems chaotic, haphazard, completely random.
I can have a rich, yet fleeting, conversation with someone close to me, and then next thing I know, I’m sobbing because they are suddenly gone from my life. Or, I know they are dying, but I am still not ready for that phone call, telling me their time has come now, and not when we had thought. What I want to be rational and reasonable is never that, not when I’m trying to understand Death.
Death always screws up my plans.
I’m never ready for it, never ready for the news, the loss, the stumbling around that I do when someone close to me departs this world. I’d like to think I can manage death, but I can’t. Oh, I’m practiced in helping to plan funerals, and even saying comforting words, and helping others out. I’ve mastered the legalities, and sometimes, I think I know the spiritual “final answer”, but not really.
I’m really not very good at all this, and the dark void in the pit of my soul still aches, and I still cry out my laments.
Sure, I move on. I go forward. That is, after all, what we have to do in this life. And, I like to think that part of that person’s goodness and spirit lives on as a spark in my own self, and that their love and their goodness is part of the tapestry that is my life and my work in this world. And, yes, all that is comforting.
Yet, I still don’t really know what to do, how to “handle this”, and to move on.
I can sit with my friend, who mourns and weeps, and let him know there is love and kindness and compassion left in this world. I can offer that and let him take what he needs now, to ease the bleeding of his own heart, and the void of his own emptiness.
Perhaps that is enough, that empathy and compassion. Perhaps that is the humanity I can offer, and how we can all try to deal with Death and loss, and our own sense of righteous abandonment and anger.
I can live my own life well, with few regrets, and with passion and zeal. Then, when it is my time to leave here, those who are left behind will have seen all that in me, and find some strange form of comfort in that, knowing I lived well and full, and that love remained strong in my heart, for all to see.
---Neal Lemery 10/26/2012