This will be the first of many posts on death and dying, fear, life, and living. I’m not even sure where to begin, so I’ve prayed a bit and will just start typing, I guess. I also will be welcoming some guest posts via interviews and podcasts on here, so stay tuned, and also, keep in mind, the views expressed here, as far as my personal posts, are my own, may not line up with what you’ve been taught or currently believe about death, dying, fear, life, or living, but are mine and THAT’S OKAY…AND YOU ARE OKAY TO WRESTLE WITH THESE TOPICS YOUR WAY…and THAT’S OKAY. My intention in opening this topic and even answering questions from others is not to pretend to be a death authority, but hopefully to bring to light the lies and beauty that surround the topic, one the world has tried for years to avoid, escape, and keep at bay. I’ll use sentiments like “I believe” or “I think” or “from my experience” quite a bit, so keep this in mind as you read and process, recalling this is simply my perspective and lessons from my journey.
I’ve had the privilege to be with a handful of people while they passed away, or shortly thereafter, before their spirits left their bodies, and after their last breaths and final heart beats. I say “privilege” because being with someone when they die is truly a sacred, holy moment…I’ve honestly never known more of God’s peace than witnessing that moment and I’d encourage anyone and everyone to sit with a dying person rather than try to avoid it, if you ever have the chance…not only for them, but for you, too.
I feared and obsessed about death quite a bit as a kid, into adolescence, until I went to my grandpa’s funeral. From 3rd grade on, without fail, until my junior year of high school, a friend or classmate or family member, died. I remember thinking that since I couldn’t imagine myself at an older age, like, for instance, in elementary school I couldn’t see myself as a kid in junior high, in high school I couldn’t conceive life in college, so I figured that meant I was going to die…and so on, these thoughts came and went throughout my younger years. I even envisioned my parents crying because I died. It was jacked up, for sure, and fueled by fear and ignorance of the unknown. Looking back, I know it’s because I never processed any of the deaths of my friends until I was a junior in high school and my grandpa died. I was FREAKED out to go see him in a coffin. Let me back up to say, I’m sure none of you did this, but when babysitters were over or when I’d go to slumber parties, let’s just say we snuck horror movies, so my imagination with death, the dead, and the boogie man were all intermingled and Hollywood-ized, so, of course, fear and extreme feelings were coupled with dying.
When my Dad stood beside me, looking on at his own father’s body laid to rest in the coffin that day, a sense of peace washed over me, I know no other way to describe it. I know without a doubt it was God’s presence showing me what happens when life and living and laughter and vibrancy and personality are no longer dwelling in arms, legs, and a familiar smile. The heart stops, but almost 30 years later my grandpa’s voice can still be heard in my heart when I sing, “How Great Thou Art” or hear Flight of the Bumblebee on a violin or think about chemistry and his contributions to science or enjoy boat rides or cherries jubilee. He took none of that with him, but left all that he contributed in life with us, the good and the bad…we all do. I looked at my grandpa’s body, then turned to my dad and said, “Huh. That’s not grandpa. That’s just his body.” And for the first time, as far as it had to do with death, I was okay.
Would I miss my grandpa? Of course. But the fear lessened its grip.
And FEAR is really the big four letter word, here. DEATH has five letters and DIE has three, but FEAR steals life from today, destroys future hope, and robs our energy, love, and vitality for living…and when we spend all our time fearing what is inevitable for every. single. human. ever. I suggest there is a lot of LIVING we’ll miss.
I believe FEAR is one of the underlying things that has to be discussed and exposed when it comes to the topic of death because FEAR of death and dying, sickness, pain, ailing, aging, loneliness, longing, doesn’t make death go away…FEAR paralyzes us by planting seeds of doubt, namely and especially, doubt that God is in love with us because we experience death and pain and separation at all.
LOVE and LIFE are inseparable from the topic of DEATH, too, so must be discussed in depth in order to be FREE to LIVE.
More to come…
Love this, which may seem bizarre. I have been a little on and off obsessed with the topic since a 6th grader in my 6th grade class killed himself. then when my mom passed my senior year…. and my own death wish thinking I have struggled with on and off and literally BATTLED spiritually for so many years. I always love your depth and insight into tough issues. Especially these that not to many want to dive into. xoxox
Not bizarre at all. Maybe you and I are the only ones that think talking about death is a breath of fresh air, but it’s like an elephant in the room, so, why not talk about it. And you have walked it, friend. Perhaps some people think even thinking about death is scary, so then they fear the very thoughts? That’s where I believe the Enemy of our hearts tries to cripple us from living, when we fear the dying?
I avoided the possibility of James dying until about 3-4 months ago. He grabbed me and told me, rather sternly, that I needed to grasp reality and face the fact he is may not beat this. After that, I spent a ridiculous amount of time compulsing about it. A few months later, I am more at peace.
However, I still don’t like the concept of a funeral. I would like to bypass that whole thing. Sit Shiva, go to a remote place with my children and celebrate his life. I don’t want my last memory of him being In a casket (even though he has opted for cremation). I don’t want to deal and have to be graceful with those who have not been supportive to him during this to show up and grieve with me and my children.
After all, we grieve for our loss, each in their own way, not for what the dearly departed has lost. He will have eternity and won’t be missing a thing.
So maybe this is just something I needed to say and has no relevance to your post or maybe I am just not as comfortable with saying “my husband is going to die” as I like to think!
I love that you’ve brought up the funeral part. I’ve already told Jason I want him to have a party and invite everyone and have wine and chocolate and fine foods and dance, even.
There isn’t one right way, friend. And the reality is, James is still alive and you guys are still breathing the same air, but talking about it is huge! I had a friend whose mom died. Her dad went ahead and bought the plot next to her, ordered and paid for his own casket, and paid for funeral arrangements ahead of time. Come to find out it was 17 years between their deaths, and my friend was creeped out that her dad had done that, but when he recently passed, she was so grateful for what was taken care of so she could simply grieve her loss.
Friend, I love you and am praying for you guys. The memorial service is for anyone and everyone who has been impacted by the person…the after time is for the family and friends to breathe and cry and laugh and rest and be…xoxox
Thanks so much for putting into words thoughts that I’ve struggled with in the past, but am slowly learning to overcome. I followed your story when Noah was in the hospital, having been introduced to your trial through my cousin, Jody (Renner).
10 months ago I had my 10th live child (having lost 2 to miscarriage prior) with my 2 oldest daughters present at my home birth with my midwife & husband present. It was a long, hard labor & I lost a lot of blood. I fainted in my husband’s arms, waking to my daughters’ scared looks thinking I was going to die. Then, less than 2 months ago, I ended up in the ER & spent 6 days in the hospital – first a diagnosis of “altered mental state” as I was in complete delusion, then found out I had chronic middle ear infection that affected my brain. I am now facing surgery, in which there are many risks because it will be so close to the brain & nerves. I’m in the process of weaning my baby & plan to spend the day before my surgery with our oldest son (currently in college) on his 23rd birthday.
Even though the risk of death is almost zero, I have still had to face the thought of it, dealing with my fears. I am not afraid of death for my own sake, but for the effect it would have on my loved ones. Right now I want to enjoy every moment I can with my friends & family, living in the blessed HOPE I have that I will return home to my children next week, longing for each & every hug & kiss I know will be waiting for me!
Your journey has taken you to places most would never wish to go, as mine has, but the perspective & insight from our loving Creator that brings us through those trials is more than anyone can ever imagine. Our last baby was named Aidyn Tryal, which is so appropriate, as God has been & continues to be our ever-present Aid-In-Trial!
Be encouraged and blessed my friend & sister-in-Christ!
Rhonda, thank you for sharing some of your journey and what lies ahead. I pray for God’s hand to guide the surgeons, for His presence to be in the room and with you, a peace unmatched, as you rest in knowing He is good and loves you all and has good in mind for you.
What a beautiful name for your child! The meanings of names are so important…what a promise of His truth over you!!
May the week ahead bring healing and the recovery be filled with life and more life!
Thank you for your encouragement, Rhonda! xoxox
Rhonda, thank you for sharing part of your story! I’m assuming by now (sorry, I haven’t been on here in a while!) you have walked through many of the things you shared about in your comment. I hope you are feeling well and soaking in your kiddos! And what a beautiful name to name your child, Aidyn Tryal…so fitting. Thanks for checking in, Rhonda.