The peace and joy you wrote about in this post is a far cry from how I've previously viewed death. It helps me see my mother's end in a new way and that has helped me cope.
As much as grief hurts, there is also so much sweetness. Did I somehow miss this for 50 years?
and Jean wrote:
One of the things I value most that friends have shared in their blogs is these glimpses of the way emotionally healthy people carry on living, eating, drinking, talking, loving, sharing, in the face of illness and death and grief - that grief doesn't have to be an entirely cold and lonely place. This is not the scenario I grew up with and I guess I never really knew it was possible.
Even our hosts last evening had written, out of consideration, wondering if we wanted to come for dinner or to cancel. But actually, we were delighted to be together with mutual friends.
The longer I live, and the more deaths I experience, the more I see they're all different. It's easier to feel joy at the end of 99 years of a well-lived life than when we all feel robbed and someone is snatched from us too early, or violently and suddenly. In fact it would feel, well, greedy to ask for more in this case. But in most deaths of people who've lived, say 50 or more years and had a chance to love and be loved and do some of the things they wanted, I think it's important to celebrate and be joyful for their time among us. Of course we always want more life - so did my father-in-law, even at 99! But death is less of a tragedy to me than it used to be.
What's tragic is never living one's life: failing to be present to the moments as they pass, failing to see, failing to participate.
I haven't always known this, and even now I know and live it imperfectly. I'm learning to live in the face of illness and troubles and aging and uncertainty, which means un-learning being depressed and self-absorbed about my own troubles, and realizing that life goes on in every moment, it is we who step off the track and feel like it's going on without us, or convince ourselves that "life" belongs to other people, or a previous time never to be recaptured.
Death also reminds me to live as if tomorrow might be my own last day -- not foolishly or rashly or graspingly, but with gratitude and intention, trying to understand what I'd regret if indeed I were contemplating the last few minutes or hours of my life, and acting to change my way of living, so that I have fewer regrets.
The things that were important to my father-in-law during these last four or five months were highly personal things he had not done in his 99 years. He took the long bed-ridden hours as an opportunity to reflect, to see most of the people he really wanted to, and to tell them what he needed to tell them. He said things to his children, and others, that he had never before said. Yes, he was also angry and frustrated at times at the loss of control and privacy and dignity he had always cherished. But on balance these months were a gift, and the people who shared them closely with him are all grateful that he used them well and that we were able to be witnesses to some of his thoughts and to his growth. He didn't resolve everything about his own life, or about religion, in his own mind, but he made big steps toward other people. That's part of why I feel joy now. And the other part is that he's not struggling any longer to overcome, by sheer force of will, a physical body that was tired out. Finally, it took over and let him go.