It’s my 38th birthday and instead of celebrating my mind is clouded with rhetorical questions. Do you ever ponder the meaning of life? Why are we here? Perhaps these questions surface when we receive news we’d rather not receive, the passing of an parent, a sibling, a friend’s spouse who died for the wrong reason. I did not even believe it myself when others tried to justify the news by saying this is the circle of life.
I don’t make it 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 does not scare me and I deal with it in quite a weird way. I do however find death emotionally overwhelming. It is hurt, compassion, sadness, pain, empathy, love all rolled together that hits like a tsunami, in waves over a period of time.
I’ve lost high school friends to accidents, drugs, and disease. I’ve seen first hand the impact on a family when their young son took his own life. Like so many others, I have said goodbye to relatives only after they have gone.
Before now, I bet young people seldom thought of death, they were too busy living life as if they are invincible, surfing social media and following the new trends. Older 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 fulfill their purpose.
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 in life? 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.