September 18, 2021
This might be the day it all hits home.
Another loss of a long time family member…on a day of national mourning, September 11…after helping to shepherd him through hospice care along with his devoted immediate family members, it has all caught up with me. The loss of so many extended family members, people I knew for decades—friends who I cared deeply about—in just a few short months.
It’s all hitting me again—I am feeling the apathy, the tiredness, the whole body and mind fatigue, the lack of motivation to do much of anything today.
I know what my much appreciated oncology social worker would suggest. Just allow. Just be. Lean in. To all of it.
And what a struggle that seems to be for me too. For one who is used to “pressing on regardless.”
But I’m testing these waters today. I am alone at home, with nothing that I must do. Nothing scheduled. Time alone. A gift of sorts.
Time to reflect on all of it—starting with my own detour into Cancerland three years ago and culminating in the losses and grief that seem to be part of an ever increasing emotional burden.
To reflect upon and feel it all at once is definitely overwhelming.
Adding to this, the witnessing of and being present for the various grief reactions of all those around me is very tough too.
We all must find our way through it. There is no magic wand. But there are some incredible things that can and do occur when we allow ourselves to be fully in the moment. We can rise from the ordinary details of life and recalculate what really matters.
I imagine this is why some of us like to climb mountains—literally and figuratively. The uphill struggle to arrive at the summit is rewarded with incredible views. A new perspective. A “knowing” in the midst of the “seeing.”
We are all mere mortals after all. There are some benefits to actively and openly confronting our own mortality; the departure of loved ones reminds us of this —and if we are awake and paying attention, it helps to put things in an entirely new perspective. Things that seemed terribly important before, take their rightful place a few notches down on the hierarchy of what really matters.
Watching our children be with their grandfather as he traveled his end of life path was without doubt one of the proudest moments of my maternal life.
They did not flee from the sadness. They did not avoid the hardship. They were fully and absolutely present to him and to each other. It was the gift of a lifetime to witness the level of empathy and trust that surrounded them all in his final days.
This was my view from the summit of sadness. Suffering comes in many forms, but those who embrace it and attend to it —surrender in its finest form—receive the greatest gifts of all.
Caring well for those around you would seem to be the ultimate path to serenity. It is what gives me solace as I process yet another death of a loved one. Each person’s passing reawakens all the grief for those who went before them. A grief that is now complicated by anticipatory grief—of the losses we are already facing along the way to our own inevitable passing.
Which gives great context and adds just a little urgency to the Latin phrase Carpe Diem—“Seize the day!”
As Maya Angelou has so brilliantly expressed in her poetry, I find it much easier to accept my own death than the death of others I love…but I do not have anger about this—or denial—just deep caring for the person who passed away and concern for their survivors.
“We bereaved are not alone. We belong to the largest company in all the world–the company of those who have known suffering.” -Helen Keller
“The reality is, you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole, but you will never be the same again. Nor should you be the same, nor should you want to.”
When I think of Death by Maya Angelou
When I think of death, and of late the idea has come with alarming frequency, I seem at peace with the
idea that a day will dawn when I will no longer be among those living in this
valley of strange humors.
I can accept the idea of my own demise, but I am unable to
accept the death of anyone else.
I find it impossible to let a friend or relative go into that country of no return.
Disbelief becomes my close companion, and anger follows in
I answer the heroic question, ‘Death, where is thy sting?’ with
‘it is here in my heart and mind and memories.’