Monday, February 9, 2009

Life's Journey

Anytime she felt she needed to make a point about our behavior, attitude or expectations, or just to get us to change course, my Grandmother always had a saying for us. The one that applies in this instance is this. She would say “the only thing in life that is guaranteed is death.” Grandpa would then say, “Well, dying is a part of life.” A time goes by I understand those sayings more and more, you know put them into perspective. Yes, dying is a part of life; the end of life. A wonderful person left us this week end and I cried.

Today I was told that a dear person I’ve worked along side for several years passed away overnight. Ironically, at the time I got the news, I was getting off my seat to walk over to her office to say good morning as I did so often. Sometimes she would beat me to the punch and come to see me. The words and emotion behind those words knocked my knees from under me and I fell back in my chair. What! I exclaimed, in confusion. As I thought I heard what I had heard, I moved towards the bearer of the news and she was in tears. What! I exclaimed again as tears rolled down my cheeks. I tried to reach out to her but couldn’t even grip her arm. I was in shock. I was numb, confused and befuddled.

The church hymn asks, ‘death where is thy sting,’ usually sung in the Easter celebration for the risen omnipotent one has stung deeply. For us mortals, it is severe and final. When death occurs, the survivors have to go on living, despite the pain and despair of loosing a loved one, or hear of someone else’s loss. We not only have to contend with our feelings, we usually have to assure others that we are ok and in the end, the departed is better off. After all, sometimes life feels like hell on earth. We also must accept condolences and console others to help each other cope – live through the pain. It takes strength and the resolve to accept that our only option is to move forward.

I don’t know if losing someone suddenly is more painful than if death comes after the progression of an illness or a long, long life into the final stages. Age is not a factor, socio economic status, or even a continent. One thing for certain, death will reach you in some way shape or form at one time or another. In any case it hurts. It hurts even to say “sorry for your loss,” to a stranger. This is not a situation where lip service can suffice; the feeling runs deep into the soul. Commiserating with others is solace but not immunity. The mystery and mortality, the reality that there is one less person in your circle can be so devastating; debilitating and immobilizing. The pain, grief and anguish are huge.

Loss– there is no going back; no do over. No more opportunity to say I’m sorry. No let’s try again. No don’t worry it will be alright. No, none of that once death comes. It’s all over. Done! The End! Kaput! C’est Finis! No more ability or opportunity to correct or make amends, thank or praise. This finality is the most intense pain and sadly that is death.

I couldn’t understand or believe what I was hearing. I walked into the other office to see the others, to check the news. Every one there was in disarray with looks of disbelief and wonder from the news. From the expressions and the somber look on everyone’s face I knew it was true. I leaned against the file cabinet as I felt I needed to anchor myself to keep from falling. That would not even be a joke from the wryest person around because we all loved, respected and appreciated her. As I stood there with my colleagues struggling to hold back the tears, all I could see or hear was my last conversation with her; “I’ll be alright, I’ll rest up this weekend. I’ll be fine!” She would be ok, she told me so. I believed her. Why not, she’s said that to me before and she was back. Did she know that would be our last conversation, even subconsciously? How, why, what, oh my God, how? No, no not her. She was……she was going to be ok. What did I miss? Could I have done something to change this outcome? What am I going to do now?!

I had to come to grips with the reality that she is gone and the rest of us will have to live on. We will have to remember, relish the ideas, thoughts and exchanges we’ve had, we’ve shared and lived, lived with and laughed about. We will have to find a way to pick up the slack, fill the void and absorb the loss in more ways than one. Her memory, thoughts and the love that she brought and shared must take us forward. The strength and courage that she displayed and the joy and beauty she brought to us will live on in our minds. I shall miss you and I shall live as you did and would; Happy, practical and honest. Take life as it comes and roll with it.

I will turn to the words of wisdom for strength and motivation, the examples of others moving forward and her memory of positive acquiescence. One thing I know is this; life guarantees death and we will survive, endure and eventually succumb. Hopefully the legacy will be such that the living will appreciates the value of life and live each day in love, joy, peace and beauty of service, respect and appreciation for music. She was a prolific dancer.

Every beginning has an end, this we know. When, how, why the end is reached is a mystery, a painful event. We will endure.

Thank you for sharing and giving to me. I am fortunate to have known you. I cried today because I miss you. Rest eternally in peace!

For all who read or browse this piece, I pray that you find something useful to help you in your journey. I hope you will share your vision, experiences or thoughts on this with us.

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