Tomorrow, on what is supposed to be a beautiful, warm day here, Jason and I will be dealing with death. We will be attending a funeral of a 29 year old man whose life ended last Sunday morning. We had both known Mike since he was a child.
Dealing With Death
Mike and my brothers have been friends since elementary school. Mike is my brother David’s best friend. Jason grew up across the street from Mike and his sister (and they all lived just around the block from us growing up). Mike’s sister married the boy next door, and his mother just happened to be Jason’s mother’s best friend. Mike’s girlfriend is the daughter of one of my dad’s good friends. I know, I know…it sounds totally incestuous and “hickville” I’m sure to those of you who come from big cities and places where you don’t see people you went to elementary school with on a semi-regular basis. But we grew up in a small town, people…this is how small towns roll.
To say Mike’s death was a shock would be an understatement. And it hurts all of us, especially my brother David and Mike’s girlfriend. Seeing those we love in so much pain is heart wrenching. Dealing with death is hard for everybody.
Empathizing with their pain can be cathartic to us even though it hurts. Those of us who have lost someone so, so close to us already know that the pain does indeed fade in time…though no one can believe it as it is happening. As I told my brothers, life just effing sucks sometimes, no matter what the circumstances.
And let’s face it… during the days after a death and leading up to the funeral, we are still in shock and not totally able to process the finality of it all. We are still waiting to wake up from the nightmare and find the deceased there with us, laughing at our horrible dream. We can’t quite understand that they are entirely gone. We are dealing with death, or trying to, even though we really don’t want it to be so.
We look through our old pictures with them and post them as a tribute on Facebook. We post messages on their Facebook wall. We still are trying to keep them here with us.
We ask, why, why, why though we know we might not ever get an answer while we are still here alive and kicking. We want answers. We need answers. And sometimes there aren’t any.
We find ourselves lugging around guilt and blame: because even in death we are still trying to take care of those we love. We are still trying to fix and make sense of things. We still are trying to protect them because we are in “life” mode and think that we still need to protect them; it’s what we did when they were here with us, and it’s what we continue to do once they are gone. The shoulda, woulda, coulda’s kick us in the ass. We relive the fact that we didn’t do enough and that in some way the death is our fault…though way back deep in our brains we know it isn’t truth.
I told my brothers that nothing good came from this death, that it just sucks and that it wasn’t fair. That there is no positive that comes from a death.
But that isn’t true.
Do you know what we have gotten from Mike’s death?
People are gathering together for support and to remember; we are all appreciating each other more.
My brothers both hugged me for what seemed forever, and I loved every second that it probably really was. We got closer. We said that we loved and needed and wanted each other in our lives.
We are all saying “I love you” which we don’t say nearly enough. We validated that we are important to each other…words that are hard for us to express because we weren’t brought up that way.
Their friends hugged me and said the same. Without any feelings of weirdness or inappropriateness. Just true feeling and word. And it felt good.
We realize, as cheesy as it sounds to say, that life is precious. That it can be taken away in seconds. That we need to give it a knowing and appreciative nod.
Life goes on, but it’s not the same. Because a piece, big or small, is missing from our lives. Sometimes just knowing someone is there and a part of what makes you you is just as important as someone you see day in and day out. In other words, knowing they are missing from this world is indeed a big deal and a piece of your world isn’t this same without them.
I saw Mike’s girlfriend earlier this week and told her that after my mother-in-law died I remembered being so pissed off that people were just going on with their lives and doing normal things – how could they do that? How could a day be so beautiful? It’s not fair. She thanked me for saying that because she had been feeling the same way. Sharing feelings like that – whether good or perceivably bad ones? It helps people going through losing someone so close to their heart…remember that. Don’t be afraid to share what you might consider “bad” feelings that you felt when you went through a similar situation. Knowing that what they feel is normal? That is giving them a gift.
Is there an upside to what seems a senseless death? There is. Even as hard as it may be to admit. There is positive in even the negative…as long as we are willing to find it and allow it to be there.
I know my brothers and Mike’s girlfriend and family won’t be able to read these words right now and find comfort in them, but maybe, just maybe, as time slowly slips by, they will read these words and smile. And that’s enough for me.