I posted on Facebook tonight asking what someone would like me to write about. The response was direct and specific, “What to ask from a higher power when we are hit with reality of a life-threatening illness, that medicine can no longer treat. This is my dilemma.” With that my response to this will cover a few blog entries on my opinions of death, life and dealing with both. Tonight is my first post to help to answer this request:
A long time ago I had a friend that was going off to Iraq a few weeks before me. He had volunteered to go early and said he wanted to go. I was grateful for this in that it gave me more time with my then family. He was indeed a leader. I have never known a finer, more honorable and wholesome man. A week after he left and another friend of mine were killed in an IED explosion on the highway to Bagdad.
My unit and I were shocked and we could not understand how this happened at the time as this type of war was new to us. We wept as we traveled to the same road that they died on. Our faith waivered so much that we questioned everything.
We had a makeshift funeral when we got there at the spot they were killed. We had over a mile of military vehicles lined up behind us all with lights on as we knelt and prayed. I had asked my platoon to form a chain with us all holding hands with heads up to the sky in the heat rather than down and we all screamed Semper Fi and Amen at the end. We went on our missions and I lost a few other friends during that time.
For me it was a memorable spiritual experience more so than to others due to a personal experience of my own with death a few years earlier, which is another story in itself. For years the friends that remained told me that the experience had change their lives forever and some went on to become some really great community leaders and activists to help those in need because of it after their term was over.
The human chain idea came to me from my own personal experience with death and I know that it was the right idea.
Over the 43 years of my life I have met many people and held many positions and have noticed that we as humans awkwardly and sometimes wrongly, many of us handle the death and dying of others. At this moment my life could end with my next breath and I would be at peace with it. I could lose someone very close to me as some of you know the story of what is going on and I know that I would be okay as I know what lies beyond this existence. I also know that although we all, as humans, mean well, we more often than not offend, ignore, blunder or just piss off. Let me try to explain and to illustrate.
How many times have you heard, “what did I do to deserve this?” What have I done wrong that I am being punished? What have we done wrong for you to be taken from us? Why are all of us being punished? You see I reject that idea as you should. My time, your time is when it is time. We cannot change it. We all must go at some point no matter the hurt left behind but it is that journey that makes all of the difference for us and the ones dyeing.
I also hear, “God needs him more that we do!” I am sorry but death itself is just another part of life. I am very certain that there I a great work for all of us and we all have our parts to play her or their or both. This may be comforting to those who say the words but I promise they are not comforting to the one fixing to travel down the road of death.
For individuals I have known over the years that have a limited time left they hate the question, “how much time do you have left?” What? Why would someone ask this? How the hell would anyone know? Doctors make guesses and we all hope they are being pessimistic but in the end there is nothing that can be done about it anyway. I prefer as we all should no matter the circumstance, to live life to the fullest each day as long as we are able. Only the Universe and god knows the answer to that question anyway. Be with the ones that you love if you’re the one dying or if you’re a family member be with them all that you can and leave nothing unsaid. Don’t look towards death but life! Live until you or they cannot.
Another question we hear “Let me know if I can help!” I have said this and still do but if you think about it, it is really meaningless. Don’t ask, just do. As we should all do when death is not an issue but then again each day it really is no matter what because we never know when it is our time.
There are infinite ways to act, to do, to get involved. You can winterize an air conditioner, water a lawn, wash and iron clothes, fix a meal. Just sitting and listening to a grieving family member is a blessing. Genuine acts of caring are maybe more important than loaves of bread. But empty gestures don’t do much. Don’t offer unless you follow up.
What really makes me mad is when I hear, “if you really had faith”, or, “were washed in the blood of the lamb” this would not be happening. These statements are really cruel and most often said by well-meaning people and “Christians”. Life and death “happen”. It is out of our hands no matter what. I a divine miracle was going to happen it will and if not, it won’t.
“Try this!” Most people are staggered by the number of well-meaning friends who want people to hear tapes on healing, read miracle-cure books, or try herbs and diets. Most of these remedies are contradicted by doctors, and none are scientifically proven. Some are even dangerous.
“I want to see you, but I can’t face it”, We all prefer to avoid death and dying. I have heard so many people say, “I want to come by, but I just can’t.” I have no answers for that, I guess. But avoidance is no answer to most of life’s unpleasant things. Even a short note or letter is better than staying away.
Now that I’ve covered things people shouldn’t do, let me say that there is plenty they can do! Family members aren’t always able to meet all of their own needs during times of emotional turmoil, and friends can fill in to make life easier. Think about these.
“Are there some things you would like to talk about?” At this time in the dyeing lives, memories are very important to the one dying and their family. As they stand between the past and the future, they have reminiscences and questions. Walk with them through their memories. Don’t hesitate to say, “Remember when …?” Personal and family histories can be enhanced in a priceless manner as we share memories—maybe even on a tape recorder.
“Are there some specific things that you could use some help with right now?” When a neighbor sees a broken fence and fixes it, they know that one needs help. But other needs aren’t as easily determined without asking. We all appreciate those who gently probe to see what’s needed; it’s more effective and appreciated than barging in and “taking over.”
Personal history projects often have many undone “loose ends.” Try finding out where you can help—transcribing tape recordings, labeling pictures, filing material.
“Can I put the new battery in the car?” “Would you like me to fix the loose carpet on the stairs?” “I’d love to give the children a ride to school” are examples of how you can help. But please let us decide if we need the help you offer.
Please do not be offended if a friend or family member says no when you ask. Maybe the time is just not right at the moment but it may be later.
Let the one dying talk about death if they bring it up. They are about to cross through a doorway into another level of existence, and although most of us have a testimony of a Universal and Godly plan, they may want to express their feelings. Let them talk. Pray with them. Don’t be uncomfortable; they will love you for your understanding and patience.
Express your feelings. The closer to death they come, the more they need to hear that you love them. “I’m going to miss you” makes them feel good. This may be difficult for you to do, but your efforts are appreciated.
Understand if they don’t want to see you. They may feel that this is a time for close family a wife or a husband or themselves only. They may be concerned that changes in their appearance would upset you. But they care very much that you care for them. Call them on the telephone, and if they are able to talk, they would love to share some time with you. Or send them a note or email or a FB. But please know that they care very much about you.
Keep their memory alive. This is a time of transition for your family, a time for grieving. Grieve! If any of the family wants to talk, listen. If they want to cry, just comfort them. Grieving is a natural, normal part of the death process, and letting them express their feelings will make the transition easier on either side.
We should all confront death and dying better. We need to find a way to help that consists of genuine acts of love and compassion. Especially, we need to be careful of the things we say. The trauma is difficult enough without unnecessary hurt.
God bless each of you and all of those to whom you are connected! †Ω∞ ©