"I've told my children that when I die, to release balloons into the sky to celebrate that I have graduated. For me, death is a graduation."
- Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
When did death get this horrible connotation attached to it? At what point did we, as a race, decide that life was much more valuable in a tangible sense than it was in a spiritual sense? Simply because we can see, smell, touch, and hear someone, it means that they are better able to please us? Hear me out for a sec, okay – I think that the more we become interdependent as a species, the more afraid we are of death. Think about it: we mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially depend on those around us. The less self-sufficient we are as individuals, the less likely we are to accept death as an end to a means. Either way, losing someone close to your heart is not easy, but my goal here is to help those dealing with that pain cope with a “closed book” just a little better.
Recently, I’ve felt it quite necessary to express my feelings on the loss of life. I’ve seen a dear acquaintance of mine struggle with losing his mother to cancer, the love of my life dealing with over a decade of emptiness since his father died unexpectedly, and my best friend who lost her childhood dog…because a painful death isn’t always people. To the aforementioned, and to all others who read this, I will tell you wholeheartedly that your sadness, anger, confusion and solitude are justified and that your mourning is all too normal. However, I will also tell you that it doesn’t suck – that much I can promise you. You will enjoy life again as you once did, as pure as a child whose innocence is noticeable to the world around them.
When you lose someone you love, it is one of the most humbling, heartbreaking, stinging, overwhelming, emotional aches that you can feel as a human being. Believe me when I say that I understand that no amount of apologetic sympathy cards, donations to foundations, flowers and long hugs from those around you will bring back the touch of the one you’ve lost. Yeah, you want to hear that it will get better, but then you struggle with the fact that you literally deplore the thought of life after the sadness. You’re torn, because you want to be happy, but…you want to be the happy you were before. What will become of you? How will you spend your days now? What will happen when the thought of the one you lost surfaces in your head? Well, here’s where I hope my big mouth can help:
You have to celebrate death. I’m not telling you to Google “How to be a serial killer” – but you must cherish the fact that life, in all forms, is a cycle. A precious one, at that. No matter how long or short-lived, a life is started, it is lived, and it comes to an end. You have to celebrate the beauty of doors opened for the souls of those who are gracious enough to leave this Earth for some place better, wherever that may be. You have to be able to filter the memories through your heart without sadness. Memories of good times, bad times, and times that you remember laughing with your loved one. Memories of stories told to you by others who’ve shared moments with them.
You have to remember. And you can’t be sad. The more you allow yourself to be open to the feeling of who they were when they were alive, the easier it will be for you to think about them now that they’re gone. It won’t be devastating to come across an old photo, it won’t bring you to tears to find a memento of theirs in the attic, and it won’t be so difficult for you to celebrate them. Death is celebratory, just as birth, and it is NOT to celebrate the fact that a life was lost. Instead, it is to celebrate the fact that a life was lived. Whether the loss itself was unexpected, cut short, morbid, planned, or not fair – that has to be secondary.
You cannot remember those that have lived by the way that they died. Read it again: You cannot remember those that have lived by the way they died. That’s not fair, to you or to them. That’s like reading an entire novel and recommending it to someone based on the back cover. Every moment they shared, every beat of their heart, every struggle that they overcame, every laugh, every movement, every gentle touch…those are the things worth remembering. But it’s also essential to remember that those moments have come and gone, and that their novel has ended. Understand that, like all good things, life also must come to an end. It will bring you more peace than you could ever wish for. Because once you have a true understanding that life must end, you then also understand that where life ends, legacy begins. Whether that life was lived 102 years or didn’t make it out of the hospital, the memories that surround the being of that soul will continue on for as long as those who walk this Earth live to remember.
Celebrating death, in essence, means celebrating a life – but, for some reason, it’s become so taboo and so cynical to say: “celebrate death”. We celebrate the fact that a life cycle was given, was lived and was ended. We celebrate a being, and celebrate them for their time spent experiencing and making an impact – no matter the length of time. Look, loss shouldn’t hang over you like a dark storm cloud waiting to pour down a drenching rain upon your soul at any unexpected moment. You should never dread the thought of being asked to remember, you should never feel as though the sensation of remorse is going to sneak up on you in the middle of work out of no where because you’ve been trying to forget about it for so long.
Loss shouldn’t feel like it’s hovering over you, it should never feel like a burden. Instead, it should feel tender, almost poignant – like the smell of rain after a storm, the feeling of wet grass on your skin, or the sun burning through what remains of those clouds to make way for brighter hours. You’ve got to remember what a beautiful thing it is to have known a soul who has lived and passed, and to have the privilege to hold the key to their legacy, their memories, their existence.
Have Fun. Be Fun. Forever.