iDeath

Death is ugly no matter how it’s delivered. And the entire notion of  “death with dignity” completely baffles me. I can find nothing dignified about it. It’s awful. It’s tragic. And it hurts like hell. Death is totally FUBAR regardless of its setting, reasons, or duration. Even martyrdom and the noblest of sacrifices are hideous and dreadful. The emotions surrounding a death are so raw and vulnerable, so peculiar and personal, and even difficult to identify, that it’s extremely difficult for well-wishers to comfort the mourners after such a loss. And yet humanity, and social conventions, dictate that it has to be done.

Death, and its close cousin Grief, often cause bright, beautiful, well-meaning people to say the most stupid things imaginable. Since time immemorial, companions have grappled with the appropriate words to offer those who are grieving. Even in the Bible, Job chastises his frenemies for being such “miserable comforters” with their long-winded platitudes. Now, in this Brave New World, we have the Internet … which sadly has the side-effect of generating and encouraging not only stupidity and callousness, but it records it. Forever.

smart fool

I actually started making notes on this post about two months ago when my brother-in-law died quite unexpectedly from an aneurysm. His death was so sudden that practically everyone he knew was left reeling, confounded and on fairly shaky ground. I was struck by how many offerings of “Life is so fragile/fleeting” and “gone in the blink of an eye” were volleyed among family and friends, both in person and online. Sudden death causes a great deal of self-reflection. I believe it’s being able to strongly identify with the fact that, “crap, that coulda been me” that causes people to take pause before speaking, or typing.

Last month, my father-in-law died after an extended hospital stay battling double pneumonia and cardiac issues. Because of his age as well as current and past health conditions, no one was at all surprised when he breathed his last … in fact, the pain of watching him struggle and linger was so frustrating and disheartening to watch that I suspect some were finally relieved to witness an end to his suffering. Of course, complete strangers assumed this, too, and decided the appropriate response would be cheer. Well meaning people pointed out that “he’s in a better place” and has “received complete healing” and even assumed “he’s fishin’ in Heaven now.” What?

grief

Most recently, two of my sister’s grandchildren burned to death in a house fire. This is the sort of tragedy that no euphemisms can cover. When the young die, people really don’t know what to say and their reactions and comments appear to be the most grievous … and the most genuine, regardless of how clumsy or clunky they may be.

We’re living in a strange time. Grief is always difficult to manage in ourselves, and much more so in others that we care about and want desperately to comfort. When we stumble over our own inability to reach out to others gracefully, we feel doubly impotent. We haven’t enough experience with Internet Compassion, if that can ever be a reality, to really know how to behave appropriately.

I suppose the best thing to do is to realize that everyone grieves in their own way; likewise, everyone offers comfort in the way they think best. I know that I will do well to remind myself of that.

13 thoughts on “iDeath

  1. How terrible to have had so many losses in a short amount of time. I am so sorry. It is times like this I am reminded how resilient we are as humans. We depend on one another so even with the losses we forge on – others need us, we need to make decisions, we still need to live even though our world seems crushed. This was a good piece. Be well.

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  2. I’m so sorry for all your losses. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. For me the hardest part is that “life just goes on”. It seems like the world needs to stop for a while — actually just stop spinning. Of course we know that it doesn’t and sometimes that’s the hardest thing.

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    • Linda, you just hit the nail right on the head. Yes, it seems the world should stop for a while. I vacillate between finding comfort in the fact that life goes on and being furious that people can just go on with their daily business while you’re just trying your damnedest to breathe.

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  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. The concept of Death has always intrigued me too. It’s just when it’s so up close and personal that I find it so disconcerting. Thanks again. XOXOX

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  4. Death is a facet of life and the end of every human. For me it means separation. The person is separated from people here but still existing some where else. I made my peace with the subject but it doesn’t make losing a loved one any easier, does it?

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  5. Really interesting post – I’m sorry for your losses x it is true that sometimes people have no idea what to say to someone grieving and you’re spot on that a young or unexpected death leaves those words impossible to find – is it better to say nothing at all – or risk a cock up – I’ve found it easier to just say “I don’t know what to say to you” which is the truth x

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    • I have found that “I don’t know what to say” is the absolute clearest and most genuine condolence to be received. “I’m so sorry” is a close second. Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your thoughts.

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  6. I have always been curious about the topic of death since young. Thank goodness I stumbled upon books by Near Death Experience survivors, mediums and regression therapists and channelers. The information they share is so consistent and comforting that it makes death so much more meaningful. Everything does have its reason.. 😉

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