As I take a good hard look at myself this summer and work on improvements ‘under the hood’, I have had a few revelations about why my fear and anxiety levels have ramped up so dramatically. One of these revelations has to do with death, and I have no doubt it was set into motion by the events surrounding my mother’s illness and passing last August. Even all these months later and after all the work I have done to deal with Mom’s loss in a healthy way, grief is still causing repercussions behind the scenes. It is normal- I am working to understand that, and move past it.
It came to me that I am not afraid of death…okay, let me be honest- I have a healthy respect for it and am in no hurry to become intimately acquainted with it any time soon. I watched my mother die and was with her as she took her last breath, and while it ripped my heart out, it was peaceful and had a beauty all its own. That was the first time I had witnessed someone die, other than being with two deeply loved dogs as they were euthanized. I didn’t know what to expect, as everyone’s experience is unique. I was grateful for the peacefulness of it all, as it could have been much different.
The last photo I took of Mom in the hours before she died.
What I see now is that I am not afraid of death. What I am afraid of is the pain that comes from losing someone I love so much. My body shies away from the memories of that pain that was worse than any I have known in my life. The thought of something happening to Dan absolutely terrifies me, as I honestly don’t know if my heart could bear it. The same feeling holds true for my sister and my closest friends. Intellectually I know that is ridiculous. Death is a part of life, inevitable…but when it hit so very close to home, my mind and heart went into self-preservation mode.
So now I have to work on seeing the full circle. Death is sad for those of us left behind, but it is not evil. We are meant to live, to carry on afterwards, moving ahead- and we are meant to die. This is the part that is my challenge, I suppose. I feel like I have moved on- I am happy and enjoying my busy and productive life. I can smile and laugh when I talk about my goofy mom. But…I can see where a part of me is pulling away, needing to be on my own, in my own head. I have avoided being in social situations more than my introverted self usually does, and I catch myself worrying about Dan inordinately, worrying about my best friend who is battling breast cancer, worrying that something will happen to my animals. It comes down to this- if I am constantly worrying about the “what ifs”, when do I enjoy the wonderful life that I have- when do I live? We can only live in the moment, and I see myself wasting that moment with futile and unfounded fears. Something is going to happen to those I love, and to me. We will all die at some point, and it isn’t something to fear…what we should fear is wasting the lives that we’ve been given.
I can’t promise that this epiphany of mine will wipe away my fears, but I can at least see it as a healthy step in the right direction. As I walked around our yard today, I did my best to notice the little things, the gifts of beauty that are all around me. Even with all of the sad things that happen in our world every day, life is still such a precious thing. I want to enjoy every moment- even the moments of sadness and grief, as feeling so deeply- even hurting so deeply- means that we are truly alive. As I have said before, grief is the price we pay for great love, and it is so very worth the cost. We feel the heights of joy even more greatly having known the darkness as well.
My lesson for now is to not shy away from the pain, but to walk through it with my head held high. Every part of life has its own beauty, and now perhaps instead of fearing that I will lose a loved one, I can feel joy that I was given such great love in the first place…and show true gratitude for that love by not wasting a moment of it in fear.