Death has changed me.
Every day someone asks me how I am doing, and every day I think of creative ways to avoid saying, "I am fine." It is such an easy thing to say, and it feels like it should suffice, but the truth is, I am not "fine." I am changed. This loss, my brother's death, and the grief I am experiencing has changed me. I feel like I am still me; this is my body, my voice, my thoughts... it's all the me I was before, but there is this new energy that makes me feel... softer, perhaps a little gentler than I was before, and I find myself wanting to take my time, take slower steps, move through my life in a way that allows me to savor it differently than I ever have before.
I work in end-of-life care, I have seen more death than most people, I get that life is fragile and precious... this is not new to me. I have lost many people that I love, people I miss terribly, so again, loss and death are not new to me. Why is this death, and this loss affecting me so deeply? I have been pondering this a lot lately. I can't help but wonder if it is because this loss is the first personal loss that has happened since I started working in this field. I feel as though all of the death I have witnessed previously, has really opened me up to this experience in a way that has me contemplating death, and appreciating life, in a more profound way.
I am sad to have lost my brother. I am disappointed in both of us, that we wasted so much time holding on to anger and grudges. I am sad that his end-of-life experience was less than I feel he deserved, and I wish so badly I could have changed it somehow. But what I am really feeling, is gratitude for having him in my life. I do not find myself going over and over the difficult times, I do not cry over the missed time as much as I thought I would, and I haven't thought about what we will miss moving forward. Instead, I find myself envisioning his face smiling, remembering the times we had that were fun, and replaying in my head some of the memories we made. I can hear his laughter, and I can picture moments that made him happy, and that fills me up. What I am feeling right now, is how lucky I am to have had him in my life for as long as I did.
The one thing we can all agree on, is that we do not know how much time we will have with the people we love. We cannot explain why some people have seventy years with someone, while others only have seven. It doesn’t make sense, there is no reasoning behind it all. It just is what it is. Part of me wonders if we anticipated each day as being our last, would we be more present with the people we love? Would we make more of the time we have with them? Would we try harder? Would we do better? I just shake my head… I have no idea… but I do know that we waste a lot of time on the days we do have, because we always assume we will have more.
Losing my brother has changed me. I am not “fine,” but I am okay. I have moments where it is so much easier to stay in bed, to not shower, to not leave my house. Succumbing to the sadness is easy. I have lost someone that I love, and I will never see him again, so of course I am sad. But I do not want sadness to suffocate me, the weight of that is heavy and uncomfortable, and blocks my view of everything that is beautiful. Instead, I will smile… when I picture his face, when I hear his laughter in my head … and I will find comfort in the memories of the time I did have with him.
How has death changed me? I feel like I am wrapped in a safe and comfortable combination of peace, gratitude, and grace, all of which I truly believe will allow me to walk gentler through my life moving forward, feeling incredibly blessed for however long I am gifted all of it, and reminding myself never to take any of it for granted.