My dear friend and neighbor died the day after Thanksgiving and while it was not unexpected, I’m still deeply saddened by the loss. Her death started me thinking about the astonishing and random number of deaths that have occurred this year, directly, or peripherally, but all acknowledged nonetheless.
None of these deaths were Covid related. Several were of natural causes which, in each case, I’m reminded that we all come into this world in the exact same way, and we are all clutching a round trip ticket. But we don’t get to know when that ticket will be redeemed do we? We just know that it is final, and a new chapter of our own life begins without this person in it, again rather it be a person who was firmly a part of our life, or someone else, who was close to someone we care about, thereby affecting us by virtue of the fact that we feel sadness for those left behind.
A short summary, in chronological order:
A longtime friend’s husband, by terminal illness;
A former boss and longtime friend whom I admired and shared many memories with, of cancer and a stroke;
A twenty year old young man, the son of friends from church, of cancer;
A man with Downs Syndrome who lived double his life expectancy and died at age 65;
A friend’s husband who died of chronic illness but still unexpectedly;
Two elderly cousins who lived full lives and took all of their as yet not shared knowledge of life experiences with them;
My Sunday school teacher, who died from complications of surgery;
A friend’s grandfather who lives in another country of natural causes, but my friend was not able to travel to his service and pay her final respects;
And finally, my beloved friend and neighbor, of natural causes, and perhaps even a bit of a broken heart since it was her son with Downs Syndrome who died earlier in the year.
Ten relatively random deaths within a span of a little over one year. Here, then gone. How do we process this? Does it make any difference as to whether it was natural causes? I would think not for the family and close friends. Death is a huge and permanent loss. It is guaranteed, that is not in question. It is a completely natural event that happens every minute of every day. For me personally, I don’t fear death for myself (although I hope I don’t die a painful death), but I do fear for my loved ones left in my wake. I feel worthy enough in life to believe that I will be missed when my time comes.
All ten of these deaths I’ve observed this year have left behind loved ones who mourn. So not only do we know that death is imminent and permanent, so must we accept that we have to grieve along the way. Do we appreciate life more? Do we make promises to be a better person? Do we reach out to those who are particularly hurting? I don’t know the answers. I suspect it’s a different experience for everyone. But I do believe we that are left behind are blindsided by our reaction to a death. I do believe there’s no way to express the feelings unless and until you’ve experienced it.
I’ve got many more yesterdays than tomorrows left in my life and I know I will experience the loss through death many more times. I hope that I can deal with this gracefully and always remain thankful for having known that person. I miss my friend and neighbor an awful lot right now, it being a recent occurrence, and I’m profoundly sad.
Ten deaths. Ten random but guaranteed deaths. This is the life we are born into. And we can only do the best we can until the end. At that point, we are set free.