Saturday, February 17, 2007

Death and taxes

Today our family has lost another patriarch. Opa, my grandfather, died this morning (Feb 17) at the age of 99. This is my mother's father. The picture above was taken at their 70th Wedding Anniversary in September. I got two messages this morning from my sister and mom. When I heard my mother's message, I knew what it would be about. My sister is the one who told me as mom was out trying to get her plane ticket changed. We, as a family, are not looking forward to this part due to the memories of our last funeral, that being my father (pictured top left with 1st granddaughter). I can't imagine what my mother is going through, having lost her husband and now her father. Nor can I think what it must be like for Oma, after 70 years of marriage. 70 years with one person. How do you give that up and still find strength to go on?

I know that I will likely not have 70 years with my spouse. I hope to have at least 50, but one never knows do they?

This experience .. death.. is a part of life. It is a ritual that we all know we must endure at some point. To say goodbye to loved ones. To support the ones that are left. To deal with our own emotion. There is a quote ... Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes. Benjamin Franklin I suppose this is a statement about the things that we try to avoid, wish we could hide from, but in the end, they will find us, and/or we will have to deal with the consequences of death, what you did or didn't do/say, and whether you paid enough taxes. The irony is that I work in the field of life and death. True, I am not a doctor or nurse. I do not literally hold life in my hand the way a surgeon might, but rather, life and its meaning is examined from a different perspective. My role at work is to hold the life forward and assist people with the concept of meaning-making. What is it, that one thing, that if there was nothing else, they would feel content because of a choice they made, a value that they held, what is that thing that would satisfy them so that they could say, yes, I am content with my life because I .....

It is not always easy to contemplate our life. What we did, how we did it, are we proud or ashamed of something? Often people focus on the negatives, like death and taxes, and forget to see the rainbows and bright spots. Humanity tends to focus on what we "should/could be" versus how it is. We examine our shortcomings and tend to give up. "Why bother? I messed up so badly here, I'll never be able to fix this..."

I've rambled on ahead again...

Feb 19.

I have decided not to go to the funeral, as I have been present for various events -- milestone anniversaries, living there, etc. I will say goodbye in my own way and once again on my next trip to Winnipeg. Death is one of those events in life that we cannot avoid. Freud says that from the moment we are born, we begin to die. In the event of death, a family, large or small, will be together and yet alone in their grief. The point of a funeral is to allow the expression of grief through memories, emotions and ritual so that we, who are left behind, can let go. Dependant on our relationship to the deceased, our grief will be different. We can share this with our siblings and friends, and yet there are some aspects that we cannot share because our experience of that individual is unique to us. In my work, I see this aspect of shared and isolated grief. Everyone has a different idea of what their role is, what is acceptable, .. "must be strong, must take care, ... etc." and these things can get in the way of the "joining together in grief.

and got interrupted by the phone. It was a patient's family member asking a question.. if she had gone in sooner, would she have lived?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just had my uncle Dan die while I had to move out of my apt in Toronto. So I get it, sometimes you need to not go & other times you need to go.

But no one really minds if you just take care of yourself too during that time. The pt is if you make contact, phonecall or an email a card or flowers...JGM