Death and all the beautiful life that surrounds it

Last week I got on a plane and flew to Las Vegas to visit a friend whose husband was killed two months ago.

These are just a few thoughts I took home with me.  I write this because I never want to forget this trip.

1. My friend’s husband seemed to live his life as if an angel had whispered in his ear, “Psst, listen up. You will have ten years together. Make every moment count.” And that he did. Not an idle moment. Not a second wasted. Trips, parties, friends, scuba diving. Ten years cram-packed with love and life. A man who always wanted his dear wife to know how much she was loved and cherished.  Anniversary gifts from the heart that would make any woman swoon.

2. When someone dies, there really should be a pause button on life you can push. “I will get back to all of this when I’m good and ready.” But instead the sun still rises and sets every day, the mail still gets delivered, the dust collects, people go about their day as usual as if the most important person in your life didn’t just die. They even dare to smile and laugh. It’s completely unfair. How can life really go on? It is frustrating as hell.

3. Death is a trickle-down domino effect. While you’re in shock, your health insurance is being cancelled on day 4. The kids you helped raise are whisked away to live again with their mother and you have zero rights. Oh, you have to actually work to make money? The money you shell out for funeral expenses while in the haze of grief will hurt you in a couple months when you’re wondering how you’ll survive. The paperwork for the death benefit you’re entitled to might as well have been written in Japanese. A person not grieving can’t understand it, let alone someone just trying to make it through the day.

4. Prescriptions are really expensive when your health insurance has been cancelled.

5. The CVS employee becomes an angel sent directly from Heaven itself when, upon asking what happened to the insurance and being told, goes to work to get every discount possible under the sun so that the cash payment won’t be as painful.

6. People are inherently good. People want to help. A veterinarian unlike any veterinarian will move Heaven and Earth to save the dog that was hit by a car, the dog who is the only thread holding you together.  He will surely deserve his bottle of Crown Royal.

7. It is a surreal gift to spend time with a friend and see the life the person left behind, to see everything intact, as if he’d never left, like he might just walk in the door any second and wonder what I’m doing in his living room. Even I keep wondering if this is all just one giant nightmare that I’ll wake up from.

8. It is a gift to be caught up on stories of things you missed, to laugh about the light he brought to this world for a short time, to feel like he’s there with us in the room, even if it is just sensory. Heaven feels closer, just a simple curtain of a dimension away.

9. Sometimes all the help you can or need give is just to be- to offer an ear and your presence. There are other kinds of helpers.  They are the doers. They pick up the sword for you when you don’t have the strength. They come to the house and pick up your errands for you, ready to get things done. Everyone falls into their respective roles naturally. You won’t know if you’re a doer or just a simple be-er until you’re there.

10. Life begins just at the end of our comfort zone. I learned after just four short days that God puts special people on Earth to challenge us in this way. Yes, it’s a wonderful feeling to be comfortable. But how much living gets done? How many opportunities do we potentially miss out on because we are scared of being embarrassed or scared to fail?

11. We all know how short life is. I’d hoped to get through this without stating this overused platitude. But it really is. And people are taken from us without warning. When we thought they’d be home to make dinner. And of course we analyze and second guess every action. Why did I do this or say that? Why didn’t I? It doesn’t matter. We’re all living our lives the best we know how, and the soul on the other side of the curtain isn’t holding on to these things. But it’s hard for the survivor to grasp that you couldn’t have made a better life for that person even if you’d done and said all of those things. It was enough!

12. Be grateful for the out-of-the-box thinkers in your life. They are a special gift to challenge those of us who would otherwise rot away on the couch.  And if you are lucky enough to get an invitation to a birthday party with an eccentric theme, don’t shoot it down all at once. Give it some thought. Dress head to toe as the color of a Skittle. Maybe learn how to do some belly dancing to “perform for your man” at the party. People might stare, they might laugh, but there are worse things in life.

Spin the wheel, go to Fiji for five days, seven, or however long you want.  Become a scuba instructor.  Drink Koolaid grape drink every day.  Wear crazy red socks to bed. Never shut it off. Thank you for always being you. You are missed!

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