Sunday, October 21, 2012

Goodbyes Are Hard

Lake of the Ozarks, 2009

I found two quotes worth adding to my list of 'quotes I'd like to try to remember' relating to death this week.  Apropos, since its chill touch has touched my life and the lives of those I love twice more this past week:

The late F.W.H. Myers used to tell how he asked a man at a dinner table what he thought would happen to him when he died. The man tried to ignore the question, but on being pressed, replied: "Oh well, I suppose I shall inherit eternal bliss, but I wish you wouldn't talk about such unpleasant subjects."
-Bertrand Russell, philosopher, mathematician, author, Nobel laureate (1872-1970)

We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking from a troubled dream; it may be so the moment after death. 
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, writer (1804-1864)

Charlie, the friend I wrote about last week, died this past Wednesday.  His lungs finally quit.  His daughter, who had gone back to college that morning, got the call right after her classes let out.  She raced the three hours back to Kansas City, and got here about an hour before he died.

Walter's mother was 80-something.  She was tired, and quit eating just a couple of days before she, too, left this world for the next.

Talking to both families as I delivered cookies (when in doubt, bring food!), I was struck how we never think today will be the day.  We think there will be time to bring over those favorite stuffed green peppers next week.  And when we aren't granted that time, we are shocked and angry and feel robbed and full of regret for things left unsaid and undone; gestures unnecessary now that it's too late.

I remember the feeling when Mom was so sick.  Yes, she was sick, and was going to die soon - but not today.  So, when the news came, though it was sorta expected, I was still in shock.  I still wanted to <fill in the blank> with her.  I wanted to say I love you one more time.  I wanted to hold her hand, tell her I was sorry for all the times I hadn't been a good enough daughter, thank her for all she'd taught me while she was able.  I was relieved she was now free from the pain that had dogged her every breath, but selfishly, I wished she had waited just a few more days, so we would have been able to say good-bye.  (Her condition had turned suddenly earlier in the week, and they'd come and rushed her off in an ambulance while we, her children, looked on from a distance, scared and uncertain.  They told us we could see her soon to say what we wanted to say - but soon never came.)

Since my surgeries earlier this year, I have been more aware of the fragility of my own life - the beautiful moments are all the more precious because on another road, they might not have ever been.  Yet, already, I find myself caught in the frustrations of daily living, dwelling on the negative, forgetting to look for the Beauty that is everywhere God Is, and thus is everywhere.

God, help me to dwell not on life's frustrations, for they will always be around and screeching for my attention, but to dwell instead on life's beauty, even on those days it is not apparent.  Because I don't know when my days will be done.  And I sure would kick myself if, on that day, I'd noticed only the gray of the sky, and forgotten to note how vibrant the yellow fall leaves appeared against their drab backdrop.


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