Monday, June 16, 2008

Thoughts about death

I've been thinking a lot about death this past week (that's probably not the best way to start a post!). Two people, under very different circumstances, passed away and it's made me think a lot about life and death and my dad.

Mary Webster was a sweet older woman in our ward. She was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer only one month ago. She bore her testimony 2 weeks ago and then passed away last Wednesday. She bore no signs of illness when she spoke in church. Four days after that she had a stroke and then spent the last week of her life in the hospital heavily sedated to alleviate all her suffering. She was surrounded by her family when she slipped away from this life last Wednesday. While short, they had time to prepare and get their minds around what was happening. I should also point out - her son passed away almost exactly one year ago also from Pancreatic cancer and her son-in-law, also a member of our ward, died last November after a long battle with Lung Cancer. Their family has literally been ravished by cancer the past 12 months.

Silly as it may sound, the other person who passing I've thought a lot about is Tim Russert. I can't think of another TV personality's passing that would make me more sad than Tim's shocking death. I loved the way he explained politics. To this day I still don't know if he was a Democrat or a Republican because he presented both sides so fairly. I naturally assume he's a Democrat because he is in the entertainment industry and because he worked for a democratic elected official but his interviews didn't involve leading questions or snide remarks (a la Katie Couric) so I'll never know for sure.

These two passings have made me think about the timing of death. In Mary's case, while the prognosis was grim from the start, she had time to say her good-byes and come to peace with leaving her family behind. Like my dad's massive heart attack, Tim did not have that chance. I'll never forget hearing the words "Dad died" from my brother and thinking "but I didn't get to tell him how much I love him" or "good-bye" or "don't worry about Mom". It was done. Nothing can undo death. It's final. For my family's sake I'd rather go like Mary so there is time to mourn and hear your living obituary. For my sake, I'd rather go like my dad and Tim. No pain, no sadness at the inevitable outcome. Just gone. But it sucks for your loved ones.

I've also thought about the great injustice it is that you can't be at your own funeral. The TV airways have been flooded with memories and stories about Tim. I feel more now than ever that I wish I knew that guy. While I liked his show, I feel like I've learned of a different side to him that makes me wish I knew him personally. The same goes for Mary. Her funeral was yesterday and, while I've always held her in high regard, I left the funeral thinking that I didn't really know her at all. I wish I could have chatted with her more, gotten to hear more stories about her childhood, or learned how to crochet from her. But I've learned all these things posthumously. I just wish there was an appropriate way to have a funeral before you die. I'd love to hear the things people would say about me at my funeral. I'd love for some young mom to come up to me and say "I had no idea you did that." But that's not how it goes.

I've come to the conclusion that you can't take life for granted. I need to live each day. I need to express my gratitude as I feel it and not save it for some time when I have time. That time may never come and then I'm left with the "I should have told them this" thoughts that just bite. Gratefully, with regards to my father, I know he knew I loved him. There was nothing left unsaid which doesn't happen very often for me!


Kelly said...

My Grandma turned 90 last year and is very "young" and healthy. A huge birthday bash was thrown for her which included lots of singing her praises, and also each guest writing whatever thoughts to her on note cards that were organized into a nice book for her to keep. She was so happy and flattered and afterword called it her living funeral. She jokes that she was so lucky to attend! :) I agree that it's too bad that we often don't get to know enough about people until it's too late. Sad.

Jill said...

Anne - I loved your Daddy so much. He was there for me and totally played a fathers role to me in my hardest time of life! I don't know if he ever knew that and I wish I could have told him to his face but I beleive that he knows it now. I am glad that you felt at peace about your love for him. I love all the Romneys!

Randi said...

Dearest Bananie, such a sweet post. I love you.

Beth, Cody and Morgan said...

Great post and a good message to always remember. Although we can't go around thinking about death all the time it is a good reminder to take advantage of now and not put everything off until some later time. Good advice.

themecks said...

Hi Anne. I am enjoying a rare moment when both my girls are asleep and so have been checking up on some old friends! Steve is actually going to London for work on the weekend and we were saying how if you were still there he could have caught up. Anyway, I really enjoyed reading this blog. We get Meet The Press here and Steve and I both watch it, and I really liked Tim Russert. The memorials to him were very moving and I totally relate to what you wrote. Anyway, hope you and all the family are well. When are you coming Down Under???? Joanna x