Learning How to Die

26 10 2012

It isn’t something I share with many people but I have spent a good portion of my life in hospitals. I grew up with many people who were close family members being gravely ill and much of my childhood was marked by hospital visits and saying goodbye. This has shaped me as an adult in that I find it difficult to bond with people who haven’t dealt with loss because their priorities and perceptions of life and the world are drastically different than mine.

Saying goodbye has become a life motif for me. I can’t avoid that so many people I love(d) have been ill and I have grown up surrounded by doctors, pain, surgery, and death. At some point I anesthetized myself by creating emotional, proximal and physical boundaries that buffered me from the inevitability of death and the unfairness of loss too soon.

None of that has assisted me in processing what I am going through right now. Someone I love is quite ill and I can’t fix it, avoid it or ignore it. She doesn’t have much time and it terrifies me as it recalls all the other losses I have experienced, compounding the grief.

In addition, someone quite close to me is losing a parent and it is breaking my heart to see the grief and fear and sorrow encompassing this person. I am doing my best to stay strong as the day draws nearer when that parent won’t be in this person’s life and everything will change. I hope that my heart has enough love and my arms have enough strength to hold this person close and keep them safe. I would give anything in my power to be the one experiencing this instead of them…how much loss and pain can a person take before they shatter irreversibly?

This brings to mind the brave women who have shown me not only how to live…but how to die. These women gave everything in their last days to experience life, give love and be beacons of light as they faded from this world. Their strength, patience, humility, courage and beauty reminds me that trivial matters in life can’t keep me down because nothing compares when held up against the privilege of another breath, another moment, another day.

Thank you for showing me not only how to live, but how to die.

Dedicated to DH, KLD and PM.

All my love, and all my thanks.

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