Dying and Living

Don’t let the post title fool you – you’re not about to read a mournful post about death and loss.  In fact, the placement of “living” after “dying” is deliberate.  When we lose someone, it’s hard to see anything except our own loss of their companionship, but beyond their death, they are living…we are living.

My grandma’s birthday was last week.  If she was still alive, it would have been her 82nd birthday.  Of course I thought of her and I still miss her, but I didn’t cry for her.  I remembered her last birthday and how miserable she was.  I thought of how she said she was ready to be with my grandpa.  The recollection of the trips in and out of the hospital, and later hospice, during her last few months of life is still fresh in my mind.

For all of these reasons, I do not feel sad that she didn’t have to endure another birthday in a failing body and a mind that was no better off.  I feel glad that she finally found peace and imagine that her soul has found my grandpa’s soul again.  I believe that after we take our last breath, our spirit lives on.  The soul isn’t sustained by our pumping hearts or oxygen, which are necessary for our physical bodies to live.

Some people choose to visit the gravesite of deceased loved ones on special occasions.  I am not one of those people.  To me, visiting the resting place of soulless bodies doesn’t bring me comfort.  It dredges up my own sadness at the loss of the person’s earthly being.

My failure to visit an engraved marble marker on my grandma’s birthday doesn’t mean I love her any less.  It just means that I love her enough to not dwell on my loss.  Instead, I think of the joy she must have felt in meeting the God she honored throughout her lifetime.

Job 19:25-27 – “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I not another.  How my heart yearns within me.”

Do you find comfort by visiting loved ones’ gravesites?  How do you choose to remember deceased friends or family members?

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17 thoughts on “Dying and Living

  1. nrhatch October 2, 2011 / 11:00 AM

    I don’t visit cemetaries ~ if our deceased loved ones continue to exist . . . it’s not there, under 6 feet of packed earth.

    I remember them as they lived, with laughter.

    • jannatwrites October 2, 2011 / 3:36 PM

      In agreement, Nancy!

      I do get sad when I think of the contrast between how I knew the person throughout life versus how they were near death. It can be an effort to not let the “end” mar a lifetime of good memories.

  2. Carl D'Agostino October 2, 2011 / 11:04 AM

    We live in Miami. My parents sold their grave sites up in New York. They’ve had them for 50 years, but as families age, disperse and die off there is no one to visit the grave sites anymore. I will be cremated and will have my daughter pour my ashes from the Broad Causeway Bridge that links North Miami to Miami Beach. I tell her to make sure the wind is at her back so my ashes don’t blow back and get run over by the cars and I get killed again.

    • jannatwrites October 2, 2011 / 3:37 PM

      Well, you’re a man with a plan, Carl! It would be nicer to be in the ocean rather than on land. I hope they honor your wishes.

  3. Debbie October 2, 2011 / 2:00 PM

    Janna, you’ve captured exactly my thoughts! My dad passed away nearly three years ago and, while I accompany my mom to the mortuary where his cremains are, I prefer not to think of him as an urn of ashes. Rather, I believe he’s in Heaven with the others who have gone before us, worshiping and honoring God while doing the work He’s entrusted to them. We miss our deceased relatives, but I don’t believe they have time to miss us!

    • jannatwrites October 2, 2011 / 3:42 PM

      I think you’re right, Debbie – they probably don’t have time to miss us. I’m glad you go with your mom, as it is probably a comfort to her, but are able to not dwell on the ashes in an urn.

  4. pattyabr October 2, 2011 / 2:01 PM

    This is difficult question. I have been stinging from the verbal wallop my mother gave me a month ago when she was suffering with a headache due to allergies and basically blamed me for getting her a geriatric doctor who changed all her meds and wasn’t paying attention to her needs problems (at that moment in time). Of course “this too shall pass” and it probably has for her and she probably can’t understand why I wouldn’t want to come visit her anytime soon to share in her misery and have her verbally whack me again about all her problems in the world. She is 85 years old and my dad is 89. I have struggled with my elderly parents mortality and my own the past two years.

    What I do know is to accept death you must not have any more fear. Fear is not love. It is hard to not worry and not be fearful. And when you are suffering it is hard not be scared that someone will not care for you and to feel loved.

    Since my parents don’t want my help, I attempting to helping myself, which is a bigger struggle than helping others. As a mother, spouse, and health care provider it is so easy to help others and not yourself. I am hoping that if I help myself I will feel more love and that love will exude out to others. NO FEAR.

    • jannatwrites October 2, 2011 / 3:48 PM

      You are in a tough situation, Patty. I know my mom had similar issues with my grandma – hurtful words and anger that were directed at her, but not necessarily as a result of anything my mom did. I listened to many conversations, and her tears and felt helpless because all I could offer was, “she doesn’t realize she hurt you so badly,” or “hang in there” – neither of which are particularly helpful.

      As a caregiver in your personal and professional lives, I can imagine it must be difficult to care for yourself. I think you’re right, though; taking care of yourself is a crucial step that will ensure you have the stamina to care for others. I know it’s not helpful to you, either, but “hang in there.”

    • pattisj October 2, 2011 / 6:43 PM

      Please take care of yourself, pattyabr. You have so much to offer others, obviously, as you’ve chosen this line of work. You have to have your well filled before you can share it with others. Do something nice for you, on a regular basis.

  5. pattisj October 2, 2011 / 6:46 PM

    To answer your questions, Janna, I haven’t visited any gravesites–mainly because we moved away from the area. But I don’t know that I would go if it was close by. The one I loved is not there. I guess I’ve chosen to write about those who have gone before, to share with the generations to come, as a way of remembrance.

    • jannatwrites October 2, 2011 / 10:32 PM

      I think that writing about them is a beautiful way to keep their memory alive, Patti. Thanks for taking the time to read and answer the questions 🙂

  6. Tori Nelson October 3, 2011 / 4:09 PM

    After all of those well-written comments to this spot-on post, I can pretty much say “Ditto”. I’ve never felt a connection or peace by visiting a grave site. That’s hardly how I’d like to remember loved ones.

    • jannatwrites October 4, 2011 / 12:34 AM

      It seems a lot of us are that way, Tori. I had felt a little guilty because I thought I was “supposed” to go, but could never do it.

  7. Bill Greeves October 3, 2011 / 7:49 PM

    I lost my Dad a little over two years ago. I have zero interest in going to visit the place his ashes were placed. Less than zero in fact. That’s not my Dad.

    My Dad is where we live now. He’s in the songs on the radio that he used to sing. He’s in my toolbox when I see his tools. He’s in the places we go that he loved. Memories of him are usually random and positive. I intend to keep it that way by avoiding the rituals of remembering his death and instead focus on remembering his life.

    • jannatwrites October 4, 2011 / 12:39 AM

      I’m sorry your Dad passed away, Bill. I agree with you 100% – our loved ones are with us in the memories brought on by what we see in our daily lives. I’m glad you’re not pulled into dwelling on his death and are able to think of good memories, instead.

      Thanks for sharing your comment 🙂

  8. Lisa (Woman Wielding Words) October 4, 2011 / 4:42 AM

    What a lovely post. I have been fortunate, so far, to not have lost anyone very close to me. But, as I watch my father succumbing to the cruelty of Alzheimer’s I know that I will have to face it sooner rather than later. But, in all honesty, part of me feels that death will return him to the man he was, rather than the shadow he is becoming.

    • jannatwrites October 4, 2011 / 8:53 AM

      Thanks, Lisa, for your contribution to the discussion.

      I’m sorry Alzheimer’s has your father. My grandma was advancing to the later stages when she, thankfully, passed away from her heart problems just before Thanksgiving last year. I know it is a painful process for all involved, but I hope you and your family will be able to find peace when he does pass away.

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