On Grief and Loss

On Grief and Loss

A co-worker’s wife is dying. “Sam’s” wife has been battling cancer for at least as long as I’ve been working here (a bit over 2 years). Sam is truly one of the most genuine and friendly people I’ve ever met, and the courage and strength he, his wife, and their young daughter have shown during this battle is amazing.

But Sam’s wife is dying. Medical science has reached the end of its ability to stave off the cancer that has eaten away at her face. She has been told that she has a few months left before the cancer kills her.

I know that Sam and his family and friends have found comfort and solace in their belief in God, and I know that that belief will, hopefully, make her death a little less painful. But for me I am clueless when it comes to grief and loss.I don’t do it well.

When my grandmother died a few years ago, she went bravely, surrounded by family. She even had a few last lovingly sarcastic jabs for me. But when she died I had no tears. I felt no great sorrow with her passing. I smiled and laughed with others at the post-funeral lunch. I didn’t grieve her passing, and I certainly didn’t agree with the “she’s in a better place” platitudes.

Talking to or about Sam and his wife, I do get misty eyed, but I really don’t know what to say to him – which is odd because I have so much to say about everything else.

When I think about death and dying, I don’ think about loss. I think about life. I don’t think about the hole that person will leave. I think about the life that person shared. I don’t cry over the persons’s passing. I celebrate the person’s living.

Death is inevitable. It comes to all of us eventually – sometimes sooner than we would like, but it comes for all. We start to die the moment we are born. It is how we fill those moments between our first breath and our last that matter.

There is no “better place” for us than where we are right now. This is all the life we have – all the life we will ever have. The roll is not called up yonder; it is called right here, right now, everyday.

Don’t mistake my lack of emotion for lack of caring. I know others will proffer their shoulders and their ears for you during your time of grief. Others will offer you “thoughts and prayers”.  I won’t.

I will gladly be the person you can rail to about how fucking unfair it is to lose your wife, your kids’ parent, your best friend. I can be the person who will listen to your doubts and misgivings about your faith. You can count on me to never say “it is part of God’s plan”, “it is God’s will”, “she’s with the Lord now”.

When I die, I hope I leave behind people who will miss me, and I hope that, instead of tears and grief, they will make jokes and tell stories. I want my passing to be a celebration of what I was, not what I am not.


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