Celebrating Death

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

 So joyful

 His last night

A coming together of friends

We all joined in mutual high spirits


And love


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?