By Maria Brewer on February 21, 2013
Now a days, I know the guy that got killed in the helicopter crash, I know the 14 year old girl that got hit by a car driven by a man who wanted to kill himself but killed her instead. I know the guy that got a blood clot and died in his wife’s arms. I know the mom who just died of lung cancer leaving 5 kids behind the oldest only 14. I know the little boy who drowned in the swimming pool. I know the parents of the boy who killed himself. And I could go on. These are all people who have shared a life with me and mine.
It seems at every turn, death awaits.
I grew up raised in a nomadic lifestyle that I might know someone who died but had not known them long enough to feel I had the right to grieve. I an outsider who could but listen those who had known them longer or better
As a child I spent a lot of time with high fevers and pneumonia. When I was about 6 I had a fever that went on for days, we had no money for the hospital and a doctor came to the house to give me shot hoping to bring the fever down. The school board even came to the house to check on me as I had been missing for over a month.
At one point I was hovering above the fireplace near the ceiling. I was looking down upon what was my body. It was frail and worn down, slumped over the arms of a family friend. I watched as she took off a blue nightgown I had been wearing, I watched her bathing this limp form made of flesh and bone. As I watched I realized that was me on some level, that it had been me, but now it wasn’t me. That I was me apart from that. I felt no distress no pain, just peace, and I felt love. It was sweet and it was life. I returned back in my body, into this vessel which all these years later still holds my love.
Being sick like this, changes you. I would cough so long and so hard that my chest hurt leaving a constant feeling of tenderness in the cavity holding my heart. All the love and care I was given expanded that feeling.
I grew strong, better and into a healthy adventurous child. I was full of a love and a zest for living, a joy for it.
Even now I still know that life is about loving. About being kind with one another. That it is I who bring the meaning to my life. Make the meaning. It is I who takes the mundane and turn it into beauty and brilliance
Life is long, if we are lucky, and as it goes we hurt. We get bored, we get lazy and we become ungrateful without even knowing it. We are tired, we feel as if we have done it all. We feel this emptiness cannot be filled. But it can.
At 18, I worked as a practical nurse, I was the youngest person they had ever hired. I was assigned to a ward with the warning that 11 out of the 12 patients under my care were dying and would be dead within the week.. They all died right on schedule, as promised, all within 3 days of one another; all of them on my shift. I could do nothing else but care for them with love, wipe their brow with touch as they passed from the body into the great unknown. But I did know that they were no longer there inside that body. A body I now had to bathe and clean for the family.
The family and friends would come, wearing all kinds of emotions on their sleeves. I an ear for all the things they were feeling. I wanted to give them love because I knew first hand how love is healing.
From a young age I thought about death a lot. I though about how if I loved someone I couldn’t bear for them to di. How it would never be the same. I thought about my death and how wanted to live here forever in this body. I loved living and people and just life itself.
At 9 years old I watched the Mary Tyler Moore show with my dad and in the episode Ted Knight, a narcissist has a heart scare and realizes that at any moment he could die. He worries about it, and mostly he worries about what people will say about him when he’s gone. He goes overboard trying to leave a good impression that his every goodbye becomes fraught with drama and he becomes annoying and returns to his old ways soon enough.
But it stayed with me, the truth behind it, that at any moment it could be over. I began modeling my behavior based on this thought. I wanted every moment to count and to feel good the way that love makes you feel.
Now, it is I who now lay my own father to rest; it is I who holds a weeping widow in my arms; it is I who comforts a mother whose child I watched run and play. It is I who have loved and lost.
Every day the news tells me of random acts of violence, people on killing sprees where innocents are snuffed out without warning. Death is everywhere and it serves to remind me that this might be the last time we share a look, a smile, a word of encouragement.
I think of how we start as infants, then children, then tweens, then teenagers, then young adults, then adults, then middle age, old age and how this body is always changing it shapes and forms but I remain.
When I was hovering around the ceiling looking down at my 6 year old body I was separate from the thing that seemed to be my life, and I realized it held my life, but it was I who was life.
When my body can no longer be, I don’t know where I will go and I don’t know where those I that have passed before have gone. But I do know their love still lives inside my heart and if I but just ask I feel them. They live on but in ways that I don’t yet understand. In ways I have yet to experience just as a child looks at an old man and cannot begin to comprehend how one day they will look like that too, I cannot imagine what comes next but know it is full of love because love it lasts forever.
– And because I love this life I know I shall love death as well. The child cries out when from the right breast the mother takes it away, in the very next moment to find in the left one It’s consolation. -- Rabindranth Tagore