Life After Death

A friend’s husband died tragically this past week, and I attended his funeral on Sunday. It was wonderful to see the number of people touched by Charlie and his family. The memorial service was filled to overflowing, the cortege to the gravesite was long, and I’m sure the family felt all the warmth and love and caring washing over them in their grief.

But it did give me pause. Not that Charlie’s early death was not a possibility. He was, after all, a survivor of Hodgkin’s Disease. But he was taken suddenly by something unexpected, unplanned for, and apparently, unfixable. And Charlie took care of himself. He used to run, was an avid golfer, played tennis with his wife on occasion, and took active vacations with his family whenever he had the chance.

So why is he dead and I’m alive? I have Crohn’s Disease, I’m obese, I’ve just started developing shortness of breath, I’ve added some weight that I had managed to keep on an even keel for a number of years, suffer from migraines periodically, and take tons of medications for this and that.

Charlie’s death got me to thinking about my life, and the fact that I have total control over giving myself better odds of surviving. Total control. What a concept! You mean, I don’t have to eat that last piece of pumpkin pie left over from Thanksgiving? You mean, I don’t have to put real sugar in my coffee every morning? That I can actually reduce the amount of real butter I cook with and still survive?

What a concept indeed. It’s unfortunate it’s taken the death of a contemporary to get this through my skull. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that my daughter has, when given the opening, shared her wishes that I take care of myself so I can be around for the next generation.

It shouldn’t take someone dying to put one’s own life in perspective, but if that death provides the springboard to self-improvement, then maybe that person’s death has some small meaning in the giant scheme of things. I know my friend has always hated to be alone, always. Even when she was surrounded by Bones or Mollie or now Katie, she hated it when Charlie was out of town. Or on call at night when he had to sleep at the hospital. I just don’t know how she’ll cope, but she absolutely has a fleet of friends to count on and a large and loving family.

My friend just lost her best friend, and I am looking at my husband a little differently today, too. He’s more than a decade older than Charlie was. How much quality time do we have left together in that book of life? Do I believe in God? I don’t know. But as a wise acquaintance once said to me, it’s as much a leap of faith to not  believe as it is to believe. So why not believe? Regardless, I think religion is for the living, not the dead. It’s a way to help make sense of the vagaries of life. And it can provide solace to those who need to find reasons and justifications in everything that happens in the world. If not someone to praise, then someone to blame. We Jews tend to go the extolling God and praising his name path. I had a Christian friend who, upon miscarrying, wondered what she had done that God was punishing her for. I told her that I didn’t think God was punishing her at all. In fact, I told her that I hoped God had bigger fish to fry than worry about punishing one individual by causing her to miscarry. I mean, there were wars going on in the Middle East. I hoped God wasn’t sweating the small stuff. My purpose was to console her; in retrospect I might have just denigrated her religious beliefs. Oh well… It’s taken me a very very long time to let the past go.

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~ by Heather on December 10, 2010.

2 Responses to “Life After Death”

  1. I am thrilled that for you, something positive can come from Charlie’s death. Dad and I have been greatly concerned over your health, but could not say anything. It has to come from within and from self.
    All our love, Mom and Dad

  2. Love you Mom!! You know I’ll help in any way I can. I should say we – Clay (and Charley & Sig!) wants you around for the next generation too 🙂

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