Are we always sorry when someone dies? Could we possibly be glad or at least comfortable with their death? I am not talking about the tragic death of children, accident victims, and people taken in their vital years or suicides.
Personally, I will never get over the loss of youth by suicide. What if …..what if and what could we have done?
When someone dies young
They never lose their beauty
We never see the bloom fade
Or their skin forget its glow
Or find a grey hair among the black
Their potential is frozen in a moment of loss
Their eternal youth is never transformed to triumph or disappointment or ordinary
They have left us an unfinished poem
Our tears are shed for all that is left undone, unsaid and unspent
We love them and grow old for them
Lamenting who they were and
Who they might have been
18 years ago my husband died. He had serious health problems for most of our marriage. His life was full of hospital visits and dramatic crises. However, it was a blessing to me that he died so peaceful in his own bed in his sleep. I still miss him and wish he was here and I still feel grateful that is ending was so gracious.
John Michael Haye born November 8th1943 died in his sleep April 27.2001
His Death was like a birth
As a young mother would-about to deliver
He rushed about, his very last day
A profound gush of energy-
Later I found the list in the desk drawer
Strong slash marks crossing out all that he had done
“garden–rocks”, “plants –pond” “paint the chair-red”
The much put off-put to rest
House polished and bed linens fresh.
One week before:
Looking out our window
We had witnessed a pair
Passionate spring vultures
In the dead cottonwood-humping gleeful
(Who knew vultures made love)
Ancient messengers of death
His last night
A coming together of friends
We all joined in mutual high spirits
Could we have planned a better faretheewell
In his clean house on his clean sheets
He lay me down to sleep
I woke his dead body still warm,
Sparkless and abandoned
Having given birth to his soul /His body spent/ now an empty shell
One of the unexpected corollaries of my aging is witnessing the death of my neighbors, my younger friends, my friends’ spouses and the loss of their quite elderly parents.
Is it possible to be reconciled to the inevitable conclusion to a long life? Could we reframe our response to the death of the very old, the infirm and critical ill?
I can envision a new response that I may not be brave enough to implement:
Your friend’s (Steve’s) 85 year old mother (Susan) dies…suddenly her husband (Bill) finds her passed away peaceful on the couch. She had the middle stages of Alzheimer’s, she no longer knew the days of the week, but she was sweet and gentle. In the spirit of acceptance and the knowledge we all die. I write a note to Bill: “I celebrate your wife’s easy and peaceful passing. I know you will miss her company. Remember the best and be grateful she left you with good memories. “
Maybe a note to Steve: “How wonderful that your mother passed so gently. I know she loved you and you loved her. How lucky the two of you got along so well. I know you had become concerned about your father’s ability to care for her. He will miss her and so will you, but I celebrate her passing with such grace and ease.”
Am I missing something? Aren’t we all going to die? Can’t it be celebrated?