Life and Death Lessons


About a year ago, I had a beautiful little baby boy and, about a year ago, my father became very ill and died.  While my father was in the hospice, breathing but not living, I held my five week old baby next to him for an introduction — the circle of life never more apparent than at that moment.  Joy mixed with anguish, health next to illness, new life entering and another life leaving us.  I continue to struggle to make sense of it all.

I have this poignant and, perhaps cruel, juxtaposition on my mind these days but not just because of my own experience with my dad and son, but because I am watching it vividly occur in my loved one’s lives too.  A friend whose wife is pregnant, after years of trying, is also dealing with his father’s end of life.  My beautiful cousin, married to the love of her life just over a year ago, is now watching cancer steal him away.  Hope, dreams, future combined with grief, loss, goodbyes. 

I know this is life – at least that is what I am learning – but I just want to have a tantrum and yell ‘it’s not fair!”  I have been hurting that my one-year-old never knew his grandfather and also that my dad never knew him or got to watch him master his first steps or laugh as he gobbles down corn on the cob as fast as my dad used to do. I hurt for my friend who is losing his father and imagine how hard it must be for him to be joyful right now.  I hurt for my cousin, her husband, and his kids (who are now in every way her kids)  – as they treasure their time with him – the unknowns and grief they face is unimaginable.  Are the answers in religion? Are they in science? Are there answers?

I spend too much of my time trying to ‘figure things out’ because maybe there is no ‘figuring out.’  I just wish I had answers and comfort for my loved ones and myself, but I find myself at a loss.  I am a therapist and work with people to help them understand themselves and their behavior so they can change, but what do you do when there is nothing you can do? Well, I know the answer to that, I guess – as a therapist you just sit with them through their grief.  I will sit with myself through my own grief and respect it.  I will reach out and, if they need me, I will sit with my loved ones – through their grief… but also through all of our future joys.  Because there will be more joys and there are more joys. They are still right there keeping us going.