It has been nearly six months since my maternal grandfather passed away. It has taken this long for me to process the shock of his death. The grieving process is long for me because it takes me a long time to grasp the reality of a death. In the past six years I have adapted to my son’s diagnosis by detaching myself from emotions when terrible events occur, including death. I guess it is a type of defense mechanism for me. I put my head down, push forward and deal with the emotional consequences later. When my emotions finally catch up with me, it takes me a while to recoup. Several events this month have me thinking about death.
People don’t like to talk about death. It’s scary. Death is a good reason I cling so hard to my faith. I believe in something that gives purpose to all things, even something as deviating as death but it’s still difficult to handle. As much as I believe it to be a natural part of life, there is no perfect way to grieve. It took two years after my uncle’s death for the reality of it to set in and I am now feeling it six months after my grandfather’s passing. It usually takes something to set off the chain reaction of grief in me. This time it was taking my grandmother to run errands. I drove her van (something my grandfather only did) and upon pulling out of the garage, I noticed my grandfather’s neatly organized garage. He had just started to put all of his nuts and bolts in little jars. He had hung several items on the wall for easy access and neatly arranged all of his tools on the shelf. He and my grandmother sold their home in Florida and moved everything back here last spring. My grandfather was in the process of merging his dual collection of items when he passed away. My grandfather was meticulous, a trait in which I can relate. I love seeing how he took pride in what little he had by caring about how it was placed. As I sat in their van, I realized he would not be able to finish organizing his garage. It would remain unfinished. His life was finished but now he had unfinished work. My grandfather didn’t leave work unfinished. That is what death is good at, leaving life unfinished.
With everyone so readily connected to one another, death is something we can’t sweep under the rug and ignore. I checked in on a woman who has been posting updates about a friend of hers who had recently been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Her friend had been sedated and clinging to life. She ended up passing away. She is in her early fifties and has two grown children. She lost her fight with a sudden disease that robbed her of her life and possibly some meaningful final moments with her family. Recently I received a newsletter from the alliance associated with my son’s disease and it’s cover story was about a 17 year-old girl who just lost her fight with the same incurable disease. It is scary and humbling. Life surrounds us with death. If it isn’t before us, it is around us. Sometimes death is one of the strongest reminders to enjoy life.
Several weeks ago my son had a seizure that stopped his breathing. This is the first time this has happened. I became so worried that I began researching how to help finance a seizure monitor for his bed and I am trying to get him on a list to receive a new epilepsy wrist monitor coming out in the spring. The concern was there prior to this incident but this made me rehash all the fears I had when he was first diagnosed. I felt like I did before I learned how to build up a wall to guard my emotions. I once again feared that a seizure will take him from me while we slept or if he were to seize away from home, I wouldn’t be there if he were to cry for his mommy. These and many other fears could paralyze my life. Just like a preoccupation with death, it could control my living but these thoughts have done something profound. Facing the fear of death and the mortality of those I love has made me want to fulfill my life. Without having to look death in the face, I am certain I would not be so appreciative of life. At the end of the day, I don’t think about the housework I have to do or what I need to plan for supper the next day, I worry if I put my best effort into making today the best it can be for my family. I think about how I can try harder to better myself for my family with anticipation. I try to remind myself that no one is guaranteed a tomorrow so if I am fortunate enough to open my eyes in the morning, I need to make it count. If tomorrow didn’t come for me, what can I show for it besides a list of unfinished projects? My goal is to find a way to live with our hindrances and find a way to live beyond anticipation. Can I live in manner in which my kids will know I fought for happiness? Can I teach them to strive to do something everyday to make life count for something more? Or will I hand over my life and my son’s life to disease and hoist up the white flag until death? Despite what made-up fantasy has us believe, death is harsh and unbiased. It doesn’t care if my son hasn’t had a chance to experience life, if I have four children that need me, or if we need our best friend. In the end, life is a blur of memories. Choose to make those mirrors into the past count. Don’t wait until disease or death rattles you awake. Wake up and live now. Finish the projects that have meaning and appreciate the outcome. Unlike my grandfather’s unfinished garage, our lives don’t have invoke sadness. Those unfinished projects he left may never be finished since no one could finish them as he had planned but we can appreciate what he did accomplish. I can use what I have learned from him and put the finishing touches on my life, even if it is just for today. Everything is worth the meticulous work, even my unfinished self.