Death is always unexpected

These are the times that try men’s souls. “*

Dear Grandson,

In all of your loss in the past months, this is the first that you might have expected.  Yet there is no real preparation for the death of someone we love.   We can understand that death comes to all of us.  We can watch approaching death through illness or age.  And we aren’t prepared.

I remember the angst and strain of caring for my sister.  Flying to her in every spare moment wore on me.  Thinking up ways to alleviate her pain and brighten tiny moments of her day consumed me when I was with her.  I was haunted by her frail hands and gaunt face.  And even though I saw her life fading before my eyes I was sure that there was a way to feed her, to comfort her, to save her.

One would think I should have been prepared.  I should have said every word I meant to say and listened to one last word of affection and wisdom.  Some final hug should have been the satisfying conclusion to a life of shared love and experience.

No.  There was the emptiness when she was gone.

Some relief.  For her to have left her pain behind.  And for me to have some distance from her pain.

And some guilt for that relief.

But nothing was preparation.  I never woke in the morning with the thought, “Yes, she’s gone.  I knew she was going.”

Instead I woke with the same void left by every death and loss that has come since; whether that loss was painfully slow or shockingly sudden.  And nothing hastens the filling of that void.

Healing comes slowly as the loving memories of the past soften the edges of the great hole left by death.  Eventually the pictures in my mind have changed to laughing and loving instead of emaciation and tragedy.

And there is no speeding the process.  There is no by-passing the pain.  There is only waiting for acceptance of voices and images of those we love to fill our minds and hearts in the present, not to make up for their loss, but to be with us as they have always been.

I still shake my fist at fate.  I question the reason for crippling and fatal accidents and disease.  My mind flails about, looking for redemption for such meaningless loss.

But that isn’t preparation either.  It’s just a part of grieving.

I wish that holding your hand and understanding your pain could have prepared you, delivered you.   I know better.  I can only love you as you follow your own path through this time.


*Thomas Paine (This quotation referred to political times…but what is more trying than grief over loss of life?)


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