Friday, February 22, 2008

On Death And Dying

My senior year of High School, a good friend's father died from a brain tumor after suffering with brain cancer for more than a year. It was absolutely excruciating to watch her suffer, and a lot to handle at 17 for myself. I read the classic by Kubler-Ross On Death and Dying. She talks about the stages of grief. I have seen these stages played out too many times now, both personally and professionally, and there are ways to help make passing easier for those left behind.

Life is awfully short. A blink. And no one wants to die, not even those who are desperate and suicidal. Death is a means of escape for some, but it comes at a permanent cost. Well, only permanent in this physical sense.

The father of my friend did some wonderful things for his family. He set them up financially. He fought as hard as he could for as long as he could. And when it became clear that he wouldn't last, he called each child in, talked to them individually, and told them how much he loved and cared for them. They did not have to doubt as they grew up. They knew love.

Today, a friend of ours died. He had been told a year and half ago that he had three months to live. He had a rare form of cancer. Medicine held no hope. He was a powerful man. He grew up sleeping on dirt floors and grew a formidable business. He had everything, physically, a person could dream of. He got to fulfill his secret hopes--something many people don't get to do in their life.

His fierce spirit and questioning nature served him well. He turned to medical alternatives, changed his diet and changed his attitude and spirit. He managed to stave off the inevitable over eighteen months. Only weeks ago, we were at a basketball game with him, having dinner together and remarking at his amazing vitality. He had gained weight. He looked better than he had in over a year. It was our last time together in his health. Over the last days, a tumor literally strangled the life out of him. And he died.

It happened quickly, which was a mercy. He wasn't in pain, which was another mercy. His family was with him and could be there for him. He was loved. And he could share love. He had so many plans and so much to do. He was young, relatively speaking. He's gone and all that remains is his work and the lives he's touched.

We get too caught up, I think, in the temporal and immediate. Life can be snatched away in an instant and to not be fully present in it is a waste.

Today, a loved one is having a birthday. Today, babies are born. Today, there is hope for those who have life in them to hope. If nothing else, mortality seems to be the best reason to live.

5 comments:

Sister Honey Bunch said...

Melissa, I am so sorry. I will pray for his family.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear about your patient and your friend. I will also pray for this family. ~vj

MaxedOutMama said...

I'm sorry. Very sorry. Sounds like you are living at the bottom of the well, but still can see the lot.

There has been a great deal of pain and suffering in your life. A lot of loss.

The true measure of a life is the lives it touched, and it sounds like your friend's touched many. He leaves a legacy of strength, hope and achievement, and I believe that such lives live on in a very pragmatic and real way.

Elaine Williams said...

I am sorry for your loss. It seems that when faced with imminent death, or dealing with the death of a loved one, we really begin to appreciate what life and those we love mean to us in full measure.

I know when caretaking my husband for almost a year, I kept thinking somehow he would be all right. You count in micro-measures the good days and then just deal and accept the bad days. Somehow, we never gave up hope, we all pulled together, our family, and you realize in minute detail this is it. Today is today, there might not be a tomorrow for some of us. So appreciate all you have in this moment.

sandy said...

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