There comes a time in everyone’s life when they lose someone they love, whether it be a child, a parent, a grandparent, a spouse, a close family member, or a best friend. Death, unfortunately, is inevitable.
1 Corinthians 15:55 – “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
The recent shooting in Aurora, Colo., has many of us thinking about the fragility of life. It’s sad to think that there have been so many senseless deaths due to acts of violence such as this theatre shooting, the many school shootings, wars, or even 9/11. There are victims and survivors, and stories about heros begin to be told. Their lives not only touched the lives and hearts of the family and friends they left behind, but they touch the lives and hearts of us as well, even though we never knew them.
Back in 1992, my best friend Vanessa (yes, we have the same name) was killed in a single-car accident. She was only 19 years old. She truly was my best friend, and her death left a little hole in my heart.
In college, I wrote a story for the school’s newspaper about a student named Phillip, who was hit by a car as he was walking across the pedestrian crosswalk. He was on life support for more than a week before his family took him off life support. He died a short time later.
My first job out of college was as a news reporter for the local newspaper and one of my first news stories was about a fatality due to a car accident. I actually showed up on the scene and saw the deceased still sitting in the passenger seat of the car. During my two years as a news reporter, I covered numerous deaths – some vehicle fatalities, a few murders, and a handful of suicides.
When I worked in PR at the local university, I had the responsibility of writing about the deaths of several students. One student died after a terrible storm caused a large tree limb to fall on her when she was camping. A couple of students died as the result of car accidents. I even had to handle the press after one of our popular English professors was stabbed to death in her home by a relative of her ex-husband.
Death is all around us, like it or not. But it’s harder to deal with when it touches your life on a personal level.
A couple of years ago, my grandpa (my dad’s father) passed away due to complications from Alzheimer’s Disease. If I’m honest with myself, he was never the same after his initial stroke six years prior to his death. And even though I had several years to come to terms with the fact that mentally he was gone, I still had a hard time dealing with his (physical) death. Ever since I was a child and up until the time he had his stroke, he always called me his “Angel.” I still think of my grandpa often and can sometimes still smell his aftershave when I think of him. He died the Wednesday before Easter and he would have been 89 in December of that year. His death left a little hole in my heart.
Most recently, my family has been dealing with my other grandpa’s (my mom’s father) illness. He was diagnosed with colon cancer a little over four years ago and for the past month, his health has been on a roller coaster ride to say the least. He was in and out of the hospital and had to have a stint put in his right kidney. He is battling nausea on a daily basis and Hospice was recently called in, meaning that all of his nausea and kidney issues is a part of the progression of his disease (colon cancer). My grandpa is 88 and his death will leave another little hole in my heart.
Several years ago, I dreamed that my father had died. It was so real that I woke up sobbing. It was sometime in the wee hours of the morning, sometime between 1-3 a.m. EST. My husband called my parents for me (they lived in Mississippi at the time and were an hour behind us) and when my mom answered the phone, I was sobbing so hard that she could barely understand me as I cried out to speak to my dad. Hearing his voice was comforting, but the dream felt so real. My dad is alive and well today, but that dream still haunts me to this day because I know that it will be a reality one of these days.
As I said earlier, death is inevitable – for all of us.
“They say that in the second before our death, each of us understands the real reason for our existence, and out of that moment, Heaven or Hell is born. Hell is when we look back during that fraction of a second and know that we wasted an opportunity to dignify the miracle of life. Paradise is being able to say at that moment: “I made some mistakes, but I wasn’t a coward. I lived my life and did what I had to do.” – Paulo Coelho
I, myself, want to live a long life, but who’s to say that I won’t die tomorrow. I want to live everyday to the fullest, without fear, but I often find myself wasting away hour after hour doing nothing. And when I think about death or dying or the world ending or the fear of nothingness after I die, my entire body begins to tingle and I have to literally shake the feeling off by quoting 2 Timothy 1:7 – ” For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” That scripture brings me a sense of peace.
So tonight, I sit here at my computer, blogging about life and death, encouraging any and all who take the time to read this to live your life to the fullest and without fear. I don’t mean to be “depressing” or a “kill-buzz”, but life is so fragile and often times, we don’t know if the last time we see each other will truly be “the last time we see each other.”
So I challenge you, as I am challenging myself tonight, to get out of bed each morning (or afternoon) starting tomorrow and hit the ground running, because who knows what tomorrow holds. I don’t… do you?
My best friend, Vanessa, gave me this poem a month or so before her death. I hope it comforts someone out there as it has comforted me.
It seems wherever I go,
People come into my life or out of it
Touching me where I can feel
Then leaving me only a memory,
Like the gossamer fairy tales of children-
And I wasn’t through knowing them.
How do I know who I am seeing for the last time?
How do I halt your life to gather and keep all those around you that you’ve known?
And how do I keep fairy tales from losing their magic?
Brush against the walls of my life
And stay long enough for us to know each other.
Even though we’ll have to part sometime
And we both know the longer you stay,
The more I will want you back when you are gone.
But come anyway,
For fairy tales are the happiest stories we ever read
And great books are made of little chapters.
-“Fairy Tales” by Chester Swor