Death & Dying

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When I was an undergrad in college, I was a Psychology major who decided to take a Death and Dying class as one of my courses required towards my major. I remember my professor telling the class at the beginning of the semester that while most people would think this is a morbid class, it’s actually a class about celebrating life and helping cope with the loss of a loved one. Because the reality is, everyone dies…you know the saying from Benjamin Franklin, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except for death and taxes.”

Perhaps that class prepared me to what I am living now – to do all I can, accomplish my dreams before it’s all over…especially since we don’t know when that time will be. As each year passes, I find that as I mature, more and more people I know will be dying. In fact that was what the priest said at a recent funeral I attended a few weeks ago, “Not only is this a time to mourn the loss of our loved ones, but to also say goodbye. Let’s face it, as we get older, the more people we will know that will be gone from our lives. It’s the circle of life.”
In this last month, I have known more people that have lost a loved one than I have known in my own lifetime. In fact, that funeral I attended mentioned above, my colleagues and I literally commented to each other, “Isn’t it sad that we were just here last year for Mary Beth?”

As we looked at each other and realized the honest truth of death, I quickly said, “Don’t say that, I don’t want this to be a tradition.”

Sadly, the truth is, it’s not a tradition. Death IS in fact the circle of life. We don’t know when we will lose a loved one; there is never time to prepare for such a loss. Whether it’s the loss of a sibling, like my mother and godmother, who recently lost their eldest brother. I could never imagine losing my sister or brother; or deaths that are unexpected and senseless. Like the loss of my best friends’ mother, who died a horrific death. I think about how she died and what her family is going through and I can’t help but have a heavy heart. Why is it only in the face of death that we contemplate whether or not we are living our lives genuinely, lovingly and kindly? At least that’s what I have been reflecting on these last few months, not only to live to my fullest potential, but to right any wrongs I have selfishly made. Because I haven’t been perfect – but who has?
But even in imperfections, forgiveness is hard to come by…even I have a hard time letting go of past wrongs done to me. In those moments, I continue to strive for what really matters. Do I need to be right, or do I need to work on this relationship? Am I going to hold a grudge when the person I am holding a grudge against has no clue that I am still angry with them? Am I going to worry about what I can’t control? The easy answer is no. The hard part is taking each day and living it…living the life that is carefree, worry free and grudge free.

I hope that one day we can come to a point when hurt no longer scars; pain is never personal; and triggers are never about you – but about the other person. If we could only learn to understand this way of life, we would all be loving to each other, forgiving easily and living like there’s no tomorrow – living the life you love.

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