If you've ever watched a comedy on television and suddenly, without any warning, you get a very special episode, you know what I'm talking about. It's not funny. It either deals with some sad or controversial topic that really has no place in a comedy at all. I usually become very upset with very special episodes, so if you don't want to read this entry, I completely understand! Because ... well, it probably is very special.
You see, my blog has suffered a lot in the last couple of years. I used to try to write entries as if I were still writing my weekly humor column for the newspaper ... poking fun at the little things that happened in my life. But then, all kinds of things that weren't particularly funny started happening. You can't poke fun at dementia and hallucinations or car accidents or broken bones or bacterial infections. At least, not when the people who are suffering from these maladies are your very own family members. It's just not funny.
Somehow, my view of life ... and of death ... totally changed after my Mom passed away last April. It was strange because many beloved relatives had died over the years and it never affected me like my Mom's death. The reality that someone can just "pass away" without any warning ... that one day the person is speaking to you and the very next they are gone ... forever from this life ... that no matter how much you wish you could turn back the clock for just a few hours or a few days and gather all the hugs you possibly could and somehow seal them all up for the rest of your days ... so that you could take them out a little at a time when you needed them most ... you can't. You can't do it. There is no "do over."
As you go about the business of living, you'll find people with similar stories of loss. Suddenly, you'll meet these people everywhere. AND when you least expect it. You'll meet them at the cemetery as they water the grass or the trees or place flowers and trinkets on graves. You'll meet them at the self-storage center when you go to sort through things. You'll meet them in the department store, the grocery store, at the gas station ... wherever. A common thread, I've found, is the need to tell, in very particular detail, the last hours, days or months of the person's life who has died.
I thought I was the only one who had to keep talking about the last two weeks of my Mom's life ... but then I found everyone does it. It occurred to me one day, we need to do it. This need spills out and people who don't normally talk a lot keep talking, words tripping over themselves as they remember those last moments and try to make sense of it.
There is no sense to be made, though, because this is what happens. Life here will end. We will miss our family and our friends who go before we do ... they leave us behind and, although they leave their memories, impressions, likes and dislikes; they leave their special ways and words somehow deep within ourselves, it doesn't make up for the lack of the tangible. Not being able to physically see them, hug them, hold their hands or kiss their foreheads ... is, indeed, painful. We can talk to them all we want to (and believe me, I do!), but we can't ever hear their voices or look into their eyes. Not ever again.
This is when faith has to kick in ... and it wouldn't be "faith" if we didn't have to believe in what we can't see and what we can't understand! Which makes me realize that what we are all striving toward -- eternal life with God -- is the only thing that does make sense! The lack of the tangible we feel at the loss of those we love is only the tip of the "lack" iceberg if we were to be separated from God. Even just to think about this is chilling (no pun intended)!
In the last couple of months -- from April to June -- there have been at least six deaths of friends and relatives. Can you believe it? That is a lot, isn't it? At first, it's almost numbing. What is life all about, anyhow, if all we do is die ... no matter how much we try to treat or fix or cure? But then I remember, as I drag my mind back, that we're not supposed to live forever here. It's only that it seems we should be clinging to this life ... but really we should be shoring up our pathway to eternal life, instead!
There's so much going on in my head that I'd love to be able to get down on paper (even virtual paper) and share with everybody about how intertwined life and faith and death are, but I don't have the right words yet.
So, in the meantime, I'll just say this: While I'm still living, I know I need to make it worthwhile. This doesn't mean I have to succeed at BIG things. I only need to succeed at being a good person. I need to remind myself every moment how important kindness is. How patience matters. How we treat others is all we have to carry us through, because not one of us knows if we'll be here tomorrow.