Perhaps these questions surface when we receive news we'd rather not receive, the passing of an uncle, a beloved aunt, a friend's spouse who died for the wrong reason. I'm not sure I believe myself when I justify the news by saying this is the circle of life.
I don't make a habit of reading the obituary columns in the newspaper but occasionally I read about strangers. Many have experienced a long and full life, contributed to society in a meaningful way, were visible within their community. I think how proud their family must be, I also imagine the hurt and grief they are experiencing. I read about the 42-year old father who has succumbed to cancer and leaves behind a wife and two children and I wonder how this is fair. My heart aches when I read about the young child tragically killed in an accident as my eyes fill with tears.
I'm no stranger to death. It scares me and I don't deal well with it. I find death emotionally overwhelming. It is hurt, compassion, sadness, pain, empathy, love all rolled together that hits like a tsunami.
I've lost high school friends to accidents, drugs, and disease. I've seen first hand the impact on a family when their young daughter took her own life. Like so many others, I have said goodbye to relatives only after they have gone.
I don't know why I’m so impacted by death. Its not that I think about it all the time. Maybe I subconsciously fear the loss of a parent, a sibling, a family member. Perhaps I'm selfish, a coward who doesn't want to die.
Young people seldom think of death, they are to busy living life as if they are invincible. Old people tend to prepare for death and accept the event as a natural and inevitable occurrence. Experience and reality have tempered their emotions. The grief and hurt is still there, so is the reflection on the positive aspects of the individual's life. For some, their biggest worry is if they will out live their friends, who will attend their funeral.
Maybe this aging process will help me to become less sensitive to the loss of not only those I love, but to those I have only read about in the newspaper. I am thankful my fear of death is more than offset by my passion for life. So it should be.
So where does this discussion of death take us? It could be to the end of a journey, or the beginning of a new one depending on your beliefs. If you were to have a tombstone, what would it read? Here we are back to the question, what is our mission, our purpose, our goal? One accolade might read, "Here lays an honest person who cared about the people around her, respected others and made a positive difference in the lives of everyone she encountered." If we envision how we want others to remember us, it might provide a valuable compass to aid us down the path of life.
In a perfect world, perhaps caring and understanding might extend well beyond our community and our country. Imagine a common bond based on a desire for truth, justice, peace, and mutual respect.
We can’t do a lot about death. We can very much impact life - our own and others.