Saturday, 10 May 2008

Life and death...

There are only two things in life that are certain - death and taxes. Yet we are so unprepared for both. We forget to put money aside and then are caught short when the bill drops in our door come January - a lovely post Xmas gift. We stroll through life, convinced we are invincible and unprepared to deal with the reality that at some stage our spirits will soar to... wherever you believe.

We are conditioned how to celebrate: births, marriages, birthdays, engagements, promotions and exam results. How come we are never taught how to cope with death? My dear friend's Dad died on Friday. It is not my story to tell, so I won't go into detail. Suffice it is to say that it all was a horrible, tragic shock. An initial diagnosis, a pronouncement of weeks to live, which became days. He was such a lovely man. The kind of Dad you read about in nursery tales. The strong gentle giant who has kind hands and a warm chuckle. Always seeing the positive in life. Broad shoulders to withstand life's storms. Salt of the earth type with no pretensions who made every guest in house truly welcome. I had no idea what to say to her. What can you say? Words fail us.

Bless my friend. She was living in another country - due to fly back in 3 weeks, ironically to spend more time with her family. She knew they weren't getting any younger. How cheated she feels to have cut her plans short and arrive back, not to even have one day with her Father, where he was his true self. I wanted to reach out to her, hold her tight, make it better. All I could say was 'I am so sorry,' and listen while she wept. I cuddled sproglet, gave husband a break and counted my blessings. I felt useless. Unable to offer up anything of value. Death makes us all mute. We mean well and everything but words catch in our throats. Some people avoid talking to people in the aftermath of death - I remember one boy who never offered condolences when my Grandmother died one Xmas. He studiously kept away from me, being the only friend that said absolutely nothing to me. There was some romantic detrius between us which I think confused the issue too - but his silence bothered me. No-one knew what to say - but the fact they even tried was enough.

In Mexico people bring gifts to the grave - such as whickey and cards and things that the living person loved - and celebrate the 'day of the dead.' In Ireland a wake can go on for days - I remember drinking a bottle of port the night before my Grandfather's death (my Dad had to feed me headache tablets with my head still on the pillow in order for me to get to the funeral)- but in most cases we um and err and back away, afraid that we say the wrong thing, prick a nerve and cause more heartache. Worse - the person may show emotion in front of us and we will curse the fact we have caused them more pain. In truth, we haven't. Death is full of so much pain that I guess nothing we say or do will have any effect at all. I just wish sometimes we all knew how to celebrate a person's life and in the same moment - celebrate that their time to pass has come. The circle of life being complete, and blessed that we knew them at all.

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