On Death & Living
My family is having the difficult reality of death creeping upon one beloved family member. The reality is, death is inevitable. But how does it only hit us when someone stands up, looks you in the eye, and says it’s actively happening? I know how it feels.
The oldest member of our family, slowly passing. He’s played the game for so long, and it is so hard. I know it’s hard to hang on sometimes.
The memory of him is musical. A pianist, a trumpet player, a silly songwriter on the whim at a birthday party. the memory of always being there after an athletic event with a “High Three” and a “Victory Altoid.” It’s Sunday evening dinners, full tables, silly jokes. A Christmas morning entrance. A birthday cake theme. It’s comfort to a little girl and a treat to discover.
Life. To me, his life, as I know him, means energy.
But when I think of him today, nearing out of energy, I think of myself.
Like I will always think of him with energy, I can’t help but also remember myself without.
You see, when I was giving up, I didn’t care at all about myself, but the only I felt was for everyone else having to deal with me. I didn’t see the sorrow and pain I was causing people. That people were disconnecting from me to make it easier on them when I was gone.
My energy was not there. I was a person in body, but if you knew me today, you’d know my spirit was drifting somewhere very far away from the body I was at war with.
But, one time, years ago, I saw our beloved family member in the hospital. I was in a bad place- low weight, missing mind, care, and drive to do anything at all. But I saw him. Nothing was going to happen to him. It was me that people worried about. But then I saw him convulse and I broke down.
I stood on the beige tile behind my family crowding inside his room, keeping my distance. Halogen rays drenching me in the light I couldn’t escape. My vision zooming out, frame-by-frame as I watched. Then he shook and turned yellow and for the first time in years, I cried. I cried in fear, something I hadn’t felt. I cried in selfishness and regret. Replacing apathy in my life became concern and love and righteousness.
My mom saw my visible response. I will never forget this.
“You see how you’re reacting now? That’s how we feel about you. Everyday.”
I nodded, understanding for the first time what I was doing. If I didn’t care about myself (and I didn’t), maybe I could at least try for others who were also wishing for survival. I was surrounded by more love than I realized.
I thought he may have been close to gone then. How would I allow this to teach me about life and also about death? He didn’t take a stubborn stance to deny help, love, life. He nurtured his energy- played music with passion, listened engaged with those he loved, supported our energies as well… the circle of life, feeding and giving.
From then on, I promised I would try. I mean, I didn’t know how, but I thought I’d try to figure it out at least.
The lesson of death- or, at least the thought of death- impacts us in some way. We feel the mortality of ourselves and our loved ones. We feel the urgent need to say, “I love you,” and spend as much quality time as possible with the people we love. We feel the need to do something spectacular. We may think twice, or we may go with our hearts.
For me, I felt it was necessary to live, and live on my own terms, in a healthy mind and body. I am here now. Living. Energetically, thriving.
It’s a fortunate thing to be able to live freely, especially witnessing and experiencing the opposite. Without the lesson, there is no appreciation. To be given this is gift, there are few more words.
To my loved one struggling: I feel your energy. I’ve seen it and I know it, and I will not forget it.