“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero
I was listening to some Harry Belafonte the other day, and this silly song came on about an ugly dad whose kids are ashamed of him because he is ugly (Mamma Look a Boo Boo); and I started laughing, because it is a song that my dad would have loved. My dad was not ugly, but it was something that he loved to joke about as he got older and lost more teeth; and he loved it when me and my brother would razz him about it.
I had my bro listen to the song when he visited and he loved it (I’m pretty sure my mom would love it too). We started reminiscing about our dad, his life, his death, and his strength leading up to death. Since that visit, I’ve been thinking more about death and how we respond to it.
We are surrounded by people affected death, though we don’t always know it. Most, if not all, who cross our path daily are not too far removed from a loss of some sort; whether it be a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance. Maybe some folks are supporting a friend who has just lost someone.
Personally, I have friends where death has hit so close to home, that it has formed who they are, as well as how they care for others who suffer a loss. There are others in my life who have had to brush up much too close with the looming fear of death, that it has also shaped their framework for life.
Having lost, as well as grieving with others who have lost; I have learned a few insights that I would love to share.
Dealing with it
There is not a specific way we are supposed to deal with death. The important thing is that we deal with it. We must face it and we must accept it…we must let it ruminate in our hearts and our minds. If we try to be overly optimistic, or minimize our lost because it is not as extreme as someone else’s loss; we miss the beauty and importance of the impact it can have in our life, and we can minimize the memory of that person.
Many problems in our life can be fixed, many of our situations can be changed; but death is finite. The defining line that death draws, draws us in to a reflection of life.
Here are some of the ways I dealt:
- I cried. I let it happen when it needed to happen. If the tears would not come, I would make time to cry. This may sound silly, but it helps.
- I wrote. My blogging started with my dad’s death. I had to let his passing be known to as many people who knew him as I could, so I wrote an online eulogy that sparked something inside.
- I got counseling. There was other stuff going on in my life that moved me in this direction as well, but it opened me up in a way that I didn’t know I needed.
The balance between acceptance and hope
Once you have lost someone to an illness such as cancer, or any rare disease, the reality of our fragility and mortality becomes more apparent. Moving forward, we are more sensitive to the possibility of the worst case scenario; though we need not succumb to it. There is a line that must be walked in face of illness, injury, and unknown; and it runs between acceptance and hope. Acceptance is our ability to see the face value of the potential reality, and hope is optimist that clings to what our hearts desire. If we can float in this space, then the lives around us benefit from it; We learn and we teach at the same time.
Hope helps us make the most of this life, and the time that we have. It allows us to persevere and endure, though all around may be crumbling.
I was looking up the origin of my last name Grayum, and it all goes back to Graham. It must be the americanized version of the name I guess. The Graham family crest has the house words on it, which are: Ne Oublie, which translated means “Do not forget.”
Therefore, I do not forget. I remember and respond; and I allow the memory of this man to feed my life moving forward.
Wherever you are in you journey, do not forget those that have gone before us. Be with those who are here now. Remember… in all things, there is always hope.