This past weekend, I was talking briefly to a friend who has been dealing with family matters surrounding death in its most inevitable form, and honestly, it’s always really hard to understand or even fathom. Thinking back to when I lost my own grandma four years ago, whoever said it gets easier with time is so wrong. It really doesn’t.
The gaps in time between you missing them become so much more wider and then when you end up remembering them in a soft, quiet moment after days or weeks, or months, you realize you miss them even more. You realize that you wish you had more time to spend with them. You realize you wish you had more time in general to make things right and just to know more things that you need to know.
But the difference between that initial pain therapists tell us “gets easier with time” to when you try to process the grief and overcome, that gap that’s built, it’s so much more of a stabbing pain in your heart when you recall a memory down the line. And you start to feel more remorseful because you tried to get over them in an effective and mature manner, but you really couldn’t.
When death enters our lives, the perception of our reality changes. How did they live? Fearless and free? Conformed and settled? Content or compliant? The truth is, our lives change every day whether we choose to believe it or not. We might try to live pretty stagnant or shove things under the rug with a Disney pair of rose-colored glasses, but the pressure of living is what makes you who you are in every evolving moment. Or at least, it should.
From the time of birth to the moment of death, we remain oblivious in between time and most often take our time and relationships with others for granted. We rarely ever think of the significance of death in our lives. Sometimes a moment or relationship can become such an enduring catalyst, quietly and critically shaping our values, commitments and sense of what is worth doing. But it also holds great influence.
One of my best friends lost her sibling so many years ago, but she is by far today the most strongest person I know. Fearless and brave, incredibly courageous, she will never settle for anything less than what she knows she deserves in life. And I commend her for that. Another one of my friends lost her mother most suddenly and from that grief and loss, she became inspired and emulated her mother’s missions to help the community and their local church. She does a wonderful job today and it’s a respectable homage stemming from the principles of her mother’s heart. Both of my friends were incredibly understanding of their relationships with the individual they lost and because of their character that shined so bright, they are today true testaments to the real love that existed.
In the case of a co-worker who recently lost her father, she realized something about his death that she never imagined when he was alive. Sharing with friends and family members that she was in a marriage rocked by eight years of infidelity, this co-worker realized after her father’s death what she deserved. A month later, she filed and told everyone at work the reason for the abrupt change even after counseling and a two-year-old, it was because she knew how disappointed her father would be in her as he was one to “never one to compromise his happiness and settle.” It was commendable and incredibly brave, especially since there is such a huge stigma around divorce, particularly with the über conservative.
In my own life, I have been able to recognize through the pain of loss that death has reformed my experiences and whatever it brings, and how it changes the view of the world today. Especially, in my relationships. Death and all his friends help shape a new objective reality, one free of bias and impartiality, fear and conformity. Death helps us to become a different person. That is, if we’re strong-willed and steadfast in our truthful understanding of that person’s character.
After losing one of my dear friends Michael almost two years ago now, I have recognized that death, in all its sadness and grief has the power to really make things better if you’re brave enough to accept. Michael was someone who lived most bravely, loved his life (literally), and was a testament to driving forth with his dreams, while sharing his passions with everyone. Because of that ideal, I ensure my own passions are seen through everyday and that I seek meaning in all my relationships. By playing out that concept most delicately and intentionally, life and death balances meaning.
If you truly love someone, you never really let them die. Ever. While death might destroy us physically, the idea can save us and catapult us to a life of meaning, purpose and faith in oneself. Without comprehending such an idea, life is meaningless without death.
Though hard to understand, death is an enfeeble part of life. But it also has the ability to break us down to a moment of perpetual development. As a continuation of life, reality, and an extension of who we become, death will inevitably happen but the love that influenced a life that makes death so much more harder to fathom will never die. Like a malleable substance, love seeps not only into our thoughts reality, and daily lives, but it changes form and shape based on our own experiences—based on our own knowledge—based on what we believe we deserve.
As one of the most prominent existential problems in our life, the relationship between life and death seems so much further apart than we imagine. But death fused with the challenges of life has the power to show you what you need to know about yourself, while becoming a motivating factor for a better life.
Whether it’s the end of a relationship that brought gratitude or enlightenment, it’s important to recognize that we never settle in life and our current relationships. If you settle, you’re just letting death keep a closer eye on you.
Life is a miracle and a blessing. And when you are fully aware of the light it brings to your own existence, you become more aware of your life and the relationships in it. You feel it, you listen to it, you understand your self-worth. You start seeing death as a part of life that is more than just an end.
Life is simple. Enjoy it, give it all you got but know, if something doesn’t work or isn’t working, there’s a greater purpose behind that. Never give into the physicality of death. Look beyond its skin to find meaning. If you’re smart and someone who truly loved the individual who passed on, you will know dying is all about living, never settling and always pushing for a better life for yourself no matter the history. Of course, not selfishly or with an ego that constantly keeps up with appearances, but unconditionally to your own depth, value and standards of knowing what you deserve.