Living When Life Ends
I was once told the supposed differences between dying slowly from a terminal illness and dying quickly from an unexpected circumstance. The difference for those whose life has ended, and those who are still living, the ones left behind.
When someone dies slowly from a terminal illness it is harder on the actual person who dies but easier on their surrounding family and friends. A slow death gives the loved ones a chance to learn to live in a new way, a chance to say good bye, and a chance to want their family member to die to stop their suffering. But, clearly a slow death requires the person dying to suffer for potentially months or even years. They probably have ups and downs, times where they think they might win the battle, and times where they cannot imagine another day.
On the opposite side of this, when someone dies suddenly and unexpectedly, it is harder on the family and friends but easier on the person who actually died. In my mind it makes sense that dying quickly would mean that the pain doesn’t last long, heck, the person might not even have time to realize you are about to die. The family and friends left behind are left in shock, standing there in complete and utter disbelief. Their lives turned upside down in a matter of moments. The survivors never had the chance to say goodbye. They never had a chance to say the things they should have, they never saw it coming. The survivors guilt and pain supposedly resurfaces unexpectedly throughout the years, just as unexpectedly as the deaths occurred – it might be the result of a song that triggers a memory, or a smell or a life event.
I have no idea how true all of this is. Clearly, I’ve never died, so I have no idea how much truth their is to the merits of dying quickly or slowly. I’m fortunate that at this point in my life I can still say that I’ve never watched a loved one die from a terminal illness. I’ve known people who’ve fought and won the battle with cancer, and I know some people who have died of cancer, but no-one close enough that I would be at their bed side during the final weeks and days. So, my thoughts here are just speculation. Really, I have no idea just how accurate all of this is, but I find it interesting nonetheless.
The only experience I actually have with death is the sudden and unexpected type. The type where I am still living even though it feels like life has ended. Seeing my family leave the house one moment, and the next seeing my dad and brother with their condition unknown lying in hospital beds, and at the same time being told that my mom and sister are dead – these are the moments in my life that will forever be etched into my mind. I remember our family friend knocking at the door and telling me there has been a car accident. I can still see the look on my Dad’s face and my older brother’s vulnerability as he lay in a back brace overcome with confusion form a head injury. I can still see and feel almost everything about that evening in the hospital, and the next few days. I remember refusing to eat for a few days, I was not hungry and on some level I couldn’t understand how I should be able to eat – I remember my Uncle finally forcing me to eat something from the copious amount of food that had been dropped off at our house, I chose a cinnamon bun. Most of my memories are incredibly vivid, and just like I was told, every now and again something happens to bring them all back to the surface just like I am reliving the actual moments. If I hear the song Strawberry Wine by Deana Carter, it take me right back to the last time I saw my sister. When I hear Downtown by Petula Clark, I think of singing with my mom in the car and the moments I wish I could still have. At times, I feel like I could puke, I feel like I could burst into tears, I feel a desperate need to give my mom one last hug, and to not argue with my sister over something silly. Some days I feel like it happened yesterday, and have to remind myself that its actually years later.
But, today is not one of those days. Today, the grief is not palpable. Rather, it is sitting far enough under the surface to make me aware of it, but not to be overcome by its full force. Instead, today I am simply remembering and wishing.
Like everyday I wish I could go back in time and give my mom and sister one last hug. I wish I could tell them all the things I didn’t get the chance to. Today, I wish I had not taken then for granted. Today, I wish my mom were here so I could wish her a happy birthday and celebrate another year with her. Today I wish I were going shopping to find her a special gift as a small token of my love. Today I wish I could give her a hug, and tell her how much I love her. Today I wish we had more time together to create more amazing memories. Today I wish she did not die at the young age of 43.
Today, I will simply live while wishing, wondering and reminiscing.
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