Surviving Death

Having people around you is essential. On the other hand, it’s also unavoidable, but people make life fuller. I don't think that I need to explain why having people is important, but I do want to talk about one of the fears that comes along with having loved ones. What if they leave me? What if they don't like me anymore? The worst of all, what if the people that I love die? In a recent survey I read, people were more scared of loved ones dying than dying themselves. I get it. It is a terrifying thought. However, news flash — the chance of death is 100%. Everyone who is alive will eventually die. 

 

Knowing that everyone will die and that we will have loved ones die, I want to talk about my personal journey in surviving that process. Three and a half years ago, my dad Doug, the one I looked just like, the one whose goal was to make everyone laugh, the one who never met a stranger, passed away. I am not sure why it lightens the load a little more when we say “passed away” as opposed to “died,” but I’ll go with it. And no matter what it sounds like, it hurts. Losing my dad was one of the most trying times I have been through in my life.

 

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Let’s rewind to 2008 when I got the call that my dad found out he had cancer. After the shock wave hit, I remember being deeply scared that he wouldn’t be there to walk me down the aisle when I got married. I wasn’t walking with the Lord at that time, so my automatic response of praying, “Help me Jesus, Help me Jesus” wasn’t quite there yet. I just remember thinking to my dad, “you can’t leave me here.” After that initial call, we had years of doctors appointments, surgeries, treatments, ups and downs, good news and mostly bad news. On January 17th of 2015, my dad left the hospital for the last time as we made our journey to hospice. I live in Nashville, and so we went to Alive Hospice. I hope you never need to know that, but if you ever need to know that, Alive Hospice was literally God-sent. I am telling you angels live there. They were some of the most beautiful, kind, servant-hearted people I have ever encountered. 

 

When we got there, they put my dad on the proper meds, and for the first time in a long time, he was himself again. He wasn’t thinking about pain, going to the doctor, taking his array of pills, he was just thinking about being. Because we were in a facility that tended to his every need, all we were thinking about was him. In my opinion, we had THE BEST TIME when my dad was in hospice. It was such a gift. You know when people go to funerals and say, “I wish I would have known how much time they had left… I would have told them I loved them more… etc.”, Well when we were in hospice, we knew that time was ticking. We told him we loved him several times a day. We would go through old pictures and see all the things he had done and places he went. We talked about way-back-when, we watched TV, and most importantly, we let him eat whatever he wanted! 

 

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For 2 months, my family and I got to spend time with my dad. My parents had been divorced for over 20 years at that point, but my mom joined right in for all the fun at hospice. He called her Nan, she cooked him his favorite dishes, and they talked about the good old days. You see death, although scary and sad, really makes you think about what's important. Nothing forces you to think about what you cherish and what is valuable like death. My dad was a very frugal man, but when he was dying that wasn’t what mattered to him. He was a car-loving man, but when he was dying, he wasn’t thinking about cars. All he cared about at that time were people. His family, his friends, and of course, the new friends that he had made while in hospice. Relationships with people; that is what keeps going after you're gone. 

 

The impact that you have on people and their lives are what lasts beyond your years. Money will be spent eventually, cars will be sold, valuables get dusty, but a touched heart echoes way past the grave. The way I survived the death of my dad, was learning to live more fully. Death is sad and scary, but it kind of slams your face into what matters (whether you wanted it to or not). I really understood the meaning of bittersweet. Its the sweetness that only bitter situations can usher you into. You maybe have survived the death of a loved one too, or perhaps you're very scared of that. I wanted to share my experience with you so that you might feel a little more comforted. We will all eventually deal with death, so instead of worrying, be encouraged. Love hard while you can, touch peoples lives and be thankful for all you have, tomorrow is never promised.

Lucy Howard