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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tribute Post - Reflections on death

I’ve had three different friends lose younger siblings to cancer in the last couple weeks - this is just a horrible coincidence but one that really in a cliche sort of way makes you consider your own life.  One of my friend’s mother posted a picture of her when she was very young with her little brother - they are both sitting on the front steps of their home, the little brother is staring straight ahead smiling into the camera, she is looking over at him - watching.  Her mother’s caption: “you’ve gone from being “watched” to the one watching.”  I can’t stop staring at the photo.  It’s making me so sad but at the same time I’m greatful he’s not suffering anymore - dying is always hardest on the living.  
As the ones left behind, you’re told to be strong, and remember the good times, but really you just want to melt into a deep earth-shattering grief and you deserve that - you lost part of your life story.  Part of your life suddenly became a memory.  Eventually your grief will become less and you will forget the suffering, the loss, the void, and the cancer and only the funny stories, the family vacations, the inside jokes, the sports games, and the holidays will remain but this can take weeks, months, possibly a lifetime.  Grief is it’s own terrible disease..
These experiences have been different for me as I don’t have any siblings so I don’t have any comparable relationship other than the deep bond with my cousins but even that is different.  Oddly enough I have an insatiable fear of losing my parents - perhaps it is because I am an only child.  Sometimes when I know they are going somewhere together, I get this twinge in the pit of my stomach... I want to call and plead with them to drive separate cars because I cannot bear the thought of losing both of them in some tragic accident, then the moment passes and I feel stupid for thinking about it.  Fears are strange feelings - things we have no control over.
For my friends and their families who have suffered and struggled long drawn out battles with cancer - I’m divided between the thought of them understanding that they had limited time left with their loved ones and could have that time to savor last experiences, moments, birthdays, and holidays - or did that just make it worse?  Was knowing there could possibly be a deadline make it harder?  Would the shock of someone being suddenly ripped from this earth be easier because you didn’t have to prepare for it?  
I understand a reflection on death is a little heavy, but honestly I’ve been to more funerals in the last six months than I’ve been to in my entire life and it’s just started to sink in recently.  The funeral ritual is for the sole benefit of the grieving family and it’s that ritual and rite that helps the grieving process begin.  From the rosary to the internment, it is for the benefit of the living - to help them cope with the process of death, to make it easier.  From the instant our earthly bodies release our soul to salvation we no longer experience grief, or suffering, or pain - those feelings are only for the living.  As the ones left behind, we must remember only we are feeling the pain and grief now.

Death is always hardest on the living. When our loved ones suddenly go from the one being watched to the one watching over.