I’ve only had to deal with death twice in my life. The first when I was very young, I believe not more than 5 or 6. My great grandmother died of Leukemia. Back then I didn’t quite understand the concept of it. I knew when someone died you would never see them again, but I didn’t know the loss or the vacuum it leaves, whether it be for a short or long period. The second time was when my friend’s step father was dying from the same disease, I was in my late twenties and better understood the situation. Each time I experienced it as a loss, but since I was so young on one occasion and only knew my friend’s step father a little but not a lot, the impact on me wasn’t as great as it was on those around me.
Now for a third time I find myself dealing with death, and for the first time the enormity of death and what it is, and what it takes away has dawned on me. For the longest time I had struggled with the idea of it. I knew what it was and is. I know how it can affect people, but until now I never truly understood, never comprehended the loss that comes with death…the finality of it.
In the movies or on television when someone dies, characters grieve for a few moments and they move on. Then it’s like nothing ever happened. The person who dies is rarely if ever mentioned and characters act as if that person never existed. I think because of that, the idea of death, and just what it means has numbed many in our society, including myself of just how final, how lasting death is. To this day I still have a hard time dealing with the idea, wrapping my head around the fact that someone leaves you, and you’re never able to speak to or see that person ever again.
I think the past few weeks have given me clarity on the subject of death and its effect on people. It’s not as much the actual passing of that person that hurts us so, not the fact that one minute they’re there and the next they’re gone, why we cry, why we feel the pain we do when one that is loved has left us. I think it’s the chasm that’s left in their absence. The hole that is never truly filled, the loss of that person and presence and just how used we’ve become to that person being there. Knowing you’ll never see that person, hear their voice, feel their caring for you anymore. It’s that loss more than anything that tears at most of us when someone dies. The loss of what might have been and what was. I understand that now. Life isn’t a movie or a television show. When someone dies it stays with you, and yes, time heals that wound, the hole that is left is eventually replaced, though, never entirely. You move on, you go on with your life. But that person and who and what they were, if they truly meant something, stays with us, and that’s not something that can be taken away…until our death.