On the subject of death

Once in a while we are reminded of just how mortal we are. Nothing brings that fact closer to home than when someone you love passes through to that mysterious realm of the after-death. I don’t normally talk about this, much preferring to talk about things that bring us happiness; but the fact remain that death is as much part of living as it is being born or having children. As sad and final as it is we have no choice but to accept the inevitability of it all and make peace with it.

I haven’t been around when those I love have died. Living across an ocean makes it harder but it also makes it easier for me to come to terms with those losses. When my uncle, and shortly after my aunt (the matriarch of my family and my namesake) died I was away working in the islands. I couldn’t even make it to the funerals. My grandma Alice was the next one to go and I was by then in the US, with the Atlantic Ocean between us and no money for a plane ticket. My best friend Mizé took her own life just as I was getting ready to give birth to my first child. Since then I lost my other grandparents and my favorite aunt Filomena. And more painfully, I lost my dad.

I couldn’t make it to any of their funerals but I don’t feel bad about it. In fact, I am glad I have only the good memories of them to sustain me. I am glad that my last memory of my dad is not of his lifeless body but of the hug I gave him at the airport the last time he had flown here to see me. I am glad that my last memory of my wonderful aunt is of her laughter over the phone as we exchanged the news.

I am reminded of these sad events now as my father-in-law fights a losing battle to hang on to life. I can only imagine the pain and sense of helplessness his kids (my husband included) must be feeling watching their dad slip away. I can only hope they will be able to escape that image and remember rather what he used to be like a month ago, a year ago, ten years ago… I hope they can remember his laughing face just as I remember my dad’s and be at peace.

After all, we never really die. We go on for much longer than our life spans; in the memories of those who knew and loved us, in the genetic make-up of our off-spring, in what we accomplished while on this earth.  It is life at its most basic, beginnings and endings in a never ending cycle. My advice is to make it count!

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