Death becomes us

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There’s nothing like a funeral to make you take a long hard look at your life. Even if you’ve live a long, well regarded life, it still doesn’t quite seem enough, given the loved ones who grieve your passing. Sadder still would be have no one who missed you, though in a way it would be easier knowing that your death would cause no pain. My great uncle was 95 and had accomplished some amazing things, but the thing that stood out most, which is unusual for a very accomplished man but fit well with my own memories of him, was how kind and caring he was, as a family man and as a doctor, and how he didn’t judge any of the people who came to him with their problems. Because it is incredibly hard not to judge and to care greatly for people outside our immediate circle. To be open and understanding leaves you vulnerable to being hurt yourself, which is why it is far easier to build a fortress and hand the key out to only a select few who you know can be trusted. The emotional resilience in people who can do this is remarkable.

The photographs shown to Moonlight Sonata flicked between a vital young man, a man in middle age then in increments inching towards the time of his passing. The beauty and tragedy of aging flowing in one inevitable direction. I have always known him as a grandfather, so for me he seemed to stay the same until near the end when he became much more fragile. Seeing the earlier photos on the big screens though, showed that for a lie. He was once the age I am now, younger and older. This too will one day be me, my life shown in a series of photos.

Sitting in the chapel, my thoughts inevitably turned to how my own funeral would go and if I were to die tomorrow, I’m not sure I’d be happy with what I’ve accomplished. I haven’t saved hundreds of lives, brought new lives into the world or helped countless people through difficult times. The things I’ve done have also been done by millions of others. I’ve yet to leave a smudge, let alone my mark on life.

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This, perhaps, is the tragedy of a shortened life. So much potential unrealised. What could they have done if given the chance? I have, regretfully, been to the funerals of two children close to me and they are almost indescribable. There are no words to convey the horrific sadness. How their parents kept moving shows a bravery and strength I don’t know if I possess. How can you find the joy to celebrate that they lived when it was not enough?

To believe that this life is not the end and that we will meet them again in some other time and place is comforting. I don’t think it matters where or in what form it comes. For myself, I’m happy to believe that death is the end, but for my loved ones? No. If they were to go on living in some form, I’d want to be there too.

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