There used to be a time that death didn’t faze me. I knew it happened. I knew it happened to everybody, but I also thought it happened to everybody ELSE. In my life, people had passed away at the right time, in the right order. We lost great grandparents and grandparents. I had seen friends lose children or their husband, but that didn’t happen in my family. We were definitely blessed.
Then, out of the natural order of life, my brother passed away from a heart attack during open heart surgery. A MASSIVE heart attack. His heart was so weak by the time it happened, there was nothing the doctors could do to save him. It wasn’t his turn to die. He was only 42. My parents are still living. He should have had at least 40 more years. Except he didn’t.
Since then, I have fallen into a dangerous trap. I have fallen into the thinking of “This doesn’t matter, we’re all going to die anyway”. Some people have mistakenly thought I just had a healthy attitude about life and faith and death.
In the 19 months since he passed, I have learned:
- It matters. Yes, we will die someday and what matters today won’t matter then, but today, right now. It matters. I think it’s healthy to keep today’s events in perspective and to realize that most things won’t be life altering and won’t be a big deal later in life, but some things are a big deal NOW and should be dealt with accordingly.
- It hurts.When my brother passed, I had almost a lackadaisical attitude about it. I told people that we weren’t that close, because we weren’t. I found that his death still left a hole in my life.
- It is not faithless to grieve. As a “good Christian”, I started this journey thinking that grieving was showing a lack of faith. I had witnessed other “good” Christians losing their loved ones and it seemed that they had so much faith that death barely had a sting. They would say the “good” Christian things, such as “She’s in heaven now”, “I’m just so thankful he’s not in pain”. They stood tall and death barely fazed them. Death was not God’s original plan though. Jesus WEPT when his friend died. If Jesus can feel the pain of death, I should too.
- It happens to everyone. At some point, each and every one of us will be affected by death. It will either happen to us, or it will happen to the people who surround us. Death isn’t choosy. You can’t run, you can’t hide and you can’t escape. Some day our time here will end. Fearing it won’t change it.
- Death changes everything. After my brother died, everything was new. I had to find a new normal that closed in around the hole death had left in my life. When I went to the store, I would think “This is the first time I have been to this store since he died”. I don’t know if that’s normal and I guess I don’t really care, but everything after he died was new to me, because it was a journey to finding that new normal.
- Life goes on. My mom and I kind of laugh about this. The day after my brother passed away, she had to take the dog out. I mean dogs don’t stop pooping just because your world feels like it has stopped revolving. She was standing in the yard and said to herself “My son just died and I am standing out here waiting for the dog to poop”. Yep, life goes on. I still had to take the kids to school, take care of my pregnant self, make dinner, go grocery shopping and clean up after dogs.
I guess this is a good time to say that it’s true. You don’t know what battles another person is facing. The person standing next to you in the elevator may seem aloof, but perhaps they have just gone through a death in their family. You just don’t know. So we should be practicing kindness to every one we meet, because we don’t know what they are going through or have been through.
Death has changed me.
Grief is a long process.
We will all face it.
Let’s get through this life together. Okay?