I have talked and written frequently on the subject of death. It is an area in which I have had more experience than I would have liked but it is, nonetheless, unavoidable in all of our lives and will most certainly catch up with every one of us in the end.
Someone once said: "It's not that I'm afraid to die -- I just don't want to be their when it happens." That is probably how many of us feel, but the fact remains, death is as much a part of life as life itself. Every family faces death at one time or another. Death reminds us of how tender and fragile life can really be.
Death can take the form of a reward for a life well lived. It can also be a blessed release from a devastating and debilitating illness or the ravages of old age. Death is hardest to take for loved ones when it comes unexpectedly and prematurely.
I am thinking especially of an acquaintance, my same age, who died in an unthinkable plane crash this past weekend. What must his family, in particular his widow, be feeling and thinking at this very moment. It hurts the heart to even speculate on such personal losses.
If we are religious, we can gain a degree of solace from The Book of Ecclesiastics: "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die." It also says in another chapter: "The day of death is better than the day of birth."...Try wrapping your mind around that one, if you can.
Regardless of the circumstances, it is fair to say that we are all the same in one lament when a loved one passes away. We are left with things unsaid and things undone. We experience knawing doubts.
There is a lesson here for all of us...We should be more open and forthcoming with our feelings. We should not save them for another time and place because another time and place may never come.
The specter of death reveals our relationships to be our most precious possessions. I'm sure that virtually everyone reading this post has lost count of the number of times they've met people who have expressed deep regret over things they wish they had said before a grandparent, parent, spouse, sibling or friend, passed away. They cannot change what was, but without fail their regrets have fueled a healthy resolve to say what needs to be said before it is too late -- to clear away hurt feelings, to express deep emotions, to connect in profound ways with the ones who mean the most to them.
Relationships, even the most loving, have occasional rough spots. We assume that people we love know that we love them, even if we've had disagreements and tense moments. It is so easy to forget that when there is nothing of profound importance left unsaid, relationships tend to take on a glorious aspect of celebration.
A deep, natural drive to connect with others lies at the heart of what it means to be human. We need not wait until we or someone we love is seriously ill. By taking the time and by caring enough to express our feelings, we can renew and revitalize our most precious connections before another day passes.
Take it from someone who speaks from experience.