Updated: Oct 16, 2019
At times in our lives, we get to walk along as someone is Transformed.
Although I have witnessed the loss of loved ones, I have not experienced the loss of a spouse so my view is different from the gut-wrenching stories you often hear.
But through long friendships where over the years, the intimacy of the frailties our body and mind have been shared, you still bear someone else’s pain. In the last few months, two of my closest friends have seen their husbands die. I say that small word, because it seems that now we soften it in our language with “passing”.
In my mind neither of these men passed anything in their life without leaving their strong handprint.
Death is the only thing we can know with any certainty.
And as such, it must be the compass
by which we orient all of our other values and decisions.
One struggled with a debilitating disease, which was slow to be diagnosed, but galloped in its progression. It took his confidence, his athleticism, his independence and had the audacity to kill him over a prolonged period of adjustment. In his prime, there was not a gathering of any sort that didn’t hear his laughter and joking.
The other husband went quickly. Diagnosed in January, dead in February. A hard-working family man, a volunteer, a nurturer, a wise patient man.
Each of their wives is my friend. Each has shared with unimaginable memory the date when their journey began, the flurry of medical appointments, of ambulances arriving, of phone calls in the middle of the night. Their shock and tears.
So what is a person to do when they sit and listen to the grief of their friend? How do you comfort? What do you share? Do you tell them about your own life, the silly things that are annoying, that you are stopping on your way home because your favourite wine is on sale?
How do you walk away from your coffee-time together and feel that you have given them a reprieve of their daily sadness? What do you carry away from them to lighten their load and is it yours to shoulder?
I have spent many a night waking suddenly thinking of each of my friends. At how the dark silence must be frightening in their homes. Of the mundane, mandatory paperwork that they need to complete, the photos to go through, the dreams to shelve.
I’ve asked them both what they need of me. I’ve told them that I will probably inadvertently say something wrong, and hope they will forgive me. I understand that I don’t truly know their pain, that jolt of realization that mortality surrounds us every waking moment.
They are both aware of the transformation that is coming. And yet, what they both want is to not forget. We use their husband’s names often. They want to keep remembering.
They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time,
a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.
I remind them that their man will not be forgotten, we laugh at the ridiculous things these men did in their younger days, we talk about death but most often we talk about life.
I too have been transformed although I walk at a distance from their sorrow. Death is a reminder for all of us to live boldly with passion and with kindness. To know that what we do each day dictates what we leave behind. That each loss is not a goodbye but a memory to hold in our hearts.
Choose to live your life as only you can, don’t squander your time. In big banner ways and in quiet moments, we are all made up of memories. Some are ours, some are given to us.
How we transform ourselves is up to us. Though we might not wear another person’s suffering, we can help them carry their memories.
We will have a chance to be on the giving and receiving end of asking for help. There will be growth on each side, let’s use it wisely.
Gail Williamson writes at Found and Bliss about the mystery and magic encountered each day. At https://foundandbliss.blogspot.com , she shares inspirational words from the side streets of life, words that encourage and make you ponder. Gail has spent a career in fostering mindfulness and self-improvement and is now devoting her time to writing full-time. She fuels her pursuit of life-long learning with good conversation, great coffee and red wine, deep reading, yoga, making jewelry and hopes that you will join her for the ride. We are all connected! Keep looking. When you find it, make it better ©. You can find Gail at Found and Bliss on FB, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.