Friday, September 17, 2010

I Know Something About Death

People find it easy to talk to me about death and their feelings about death.

I know something about death.

I lost the only grandfather I knew when I was 4. I still remember helping him around the house (or thinking that I did - and he let me think so). I still remember saying goodbye to him in a green hospital room. He was in an oxygen tent and couldn't speak, but he sat up and gestured love to me. I remember that it was a big deal they let me into his room, since I was under the age of 12, but I was too young to know why they did.

Later I lost my grandmother at the age of 97 when she developed an infection after she fell in our house and broke her hip. My father was passed out in a haze of morphine in the other bathroom. The morphine was for his lung cancer, which ruled all of our lives for 7 years. He swore off all of the painkillers shortly after the accident.

In one week in the summer of 1982, I lost a baby, lost my father, and lost my next oldest cousin, who was shot to death.

I know something about death.

In 2006, I lost my mother after her long struggle with many things, among them lupus. I sat with her for the last two weeks of her life and did not shy away from the reality of such a prolonged death.

In 2007, after doing everything we could for him, we lost our puppy Leo. I don't care what anyone says. He was a part of our family, and we grieved him.

In 2009, we lost our daughter. I have been in mourning ever since.

Today I thought we were going to lose Bodhi, who was the "replacement puppy" when we lost Leo. Bodhi had gotten into the cat food, and he swelled up. Bloat and gastric torsion can kill a deep-chested dog like him (he's a bulldog). Thankfully it looks like he's going to be okay.

People are drawn to me. They know they can talk to me about their losses. Something that might seem inconsequential to someone else (like the loss of an aunt, an uncle, a cousin - or a pet) isn't inconsequential in my eyes. Tell me about him, I say. I really want to know.

Someday I'll go back and get at least the certificate in Thanatology. I want to hear the stories of the people who are dying or the people who are left. I want to know about the pet you can't forget. I want to see your shrines. You have my heart.

I know something about death.

It has taught me much about life.

Peace - D


the walking man said...

I have seen enough of it to not shy away when someone needs to talk. I do not fear what I can not control and that I think is why it is so easy for some to lend that ear and word of comfort while others can only whistle past the graveyard and never express any emotion of thought on what is a portion, a large portion of our human reality.

Baroness von Bloggenschtern said...

This was beautifully eloquent. It is this grace and dignity that informs you, and lets people sense that you are a safe haven to harbor their feelings.

Maggie May said...

As you get older, there are more deaths to cope with. I think losing a loved one, even if it is a pet, makes you a stronger person. After all, you are the survivor. It also helps you to empathise more with other people. I think all things that are difficult are like that too. The word cancer makes people shy away and they don't know what to say. Except that I can talk about that and death because it is from personal experience.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Syd said...

I am glad to read this today as I lost one of my dogs to cancer this morning. I have lost my grandparents and my parents, as well as many pets. I don't want to think more about death today. But I am grateful to still be here.

Ms Hen said...

..the ones who leave are in a Better Place.. it is us earthlings that are in pain.

This made me realize to carry on and enjoy my life.

Harder on you.. you lost a child.. I just lost others I love.. a child is different.

a million hugs.. but she would want you to be Happy. I really believe this in my heart.

RiverPoet said...

I love you all.

Mark - Your insight never fails to humble me.

Baroness - It's good to see you here. I've missed you and will visit you as often as I can.

Maggie - The big C doesn't scare me, but I know what you mean. Sometimes people shy away, like they think it's catching. You keep coming here. I'll always be here.

Syd - A thousand hugs to you tonight. I hope you dream of cold noses and wagging tails. Clarabelle is okay now.

Ms. Hen - I wish I knew how to comment on your blog, but I did read. And thank you. (I've always preferred Clint Eastwood over Robert Redford, too. Must be that thousand-yard stare...)

Peace - D

Daryl said...

this is a sincere and wonderful post .. I am SO glad Bodhi will recover .. pets are our surrogate children ... xo