“To everyone who’s lost someone they love
Long before it was their time.
You feel like the days you had were not enough
When you said goodbye.”
Maybe you don’t know this, but I’ve had a number of deaths in my life, lately. Were all of them close to me? No. But some of them really were (not like relative close, but definitely really good friend close). And others affected me because I wish I could do something for the family because I know the family is experiencing so much pain, right now.
Allow me to explain a little bit. Most recently, I found out my friend’s grandfather recently died. I didn’t know her grandfather, but I know that it is hard on her and her family. I have never lost a grandparent. I still have four grandparents and one great grandparent. My other great grandparents died in my lifetime, but I was either too young to know what was going on, or too young to even know who they were or both. As a result, I’ve never dealt with that kind of loss. It scares the crap out of me, to be honest. I mean, (I realize this will sound wrong, but I don’t know how else to say it) I always hoped my first grandparent would die before I was in college. That way, I’d be close to my family when it happened. I could help take care of things around the house. I would be better able to be strong and deal with it well because I would be home and have to be strong for my sisters and my mom and all that stuff. I wouldn’t have to be alone in the grieving process. I would get to play the role of the optimist, the person who has faith and hope in God and can reference that to the benefit to others. (Yeah, in a crisis situation at home, I either disappear so I won’t get in the way and screw things up…or I am the reassuring voice of faith, pointing out the silver lining and all that. But alas, that was not how it went down. I’m out of the house (for the most part :P) so when one of my grandparents passes, I will have to deal on my own…I won’t have an excuse to not be emotional. I know, poor me, right? The thing of it is, I totally am okay with death in general. I get that things die, and I’ve dealt with people as they were dying, after they’d died (you know, washing up the body and what not), etc. That doesn’t mean that I’m a huge death fan or something, but it does mean I’m no stranger, and generally, I handle it well. I mean, I have yet to freak out about the onset of death or the realization that someone has died. But I do miss some of the people in my life that have died recently.
Quite a few of my residents at the nursing home died while I was off at school. I knew about some of them. I mean, when I came home for Mika’s confirmation, I swung by the nursing home to make the rounds and see how everyone was and all that. At that point, one of my favorite ladies (I always told her that she was the coolest grandma…and she taught me bits of Dutch from time to time. I loved her. She was adorable) had already passed away. That was pretty sad for me. At that time, other people had passed away as well, but her death was the saddest one for me. I wasn’t really sad about it, though. I remembered how much I loved taking care of her. I loved being around her so much. She was so awesome and beautiful and sweet. I remember a lot of great times that I had with her – conversations, laughs, touching moments, etc. I remember one day when I was taking care of her, she was talking about her deceased husband and her family and where they all lived. I remember thinking, “I’m glad that while she can’t live the last few years of her life in her home with her family, she can at least live out her last years in a place where people lover her and care about her.” I think that’s why I don’t feel grieved at her passing. I know that she knew I loved her. I know she died surrounded by people that loved her and cared about her. I know that she had faith, and I believe that God blessed her with peace. I believe that she went home to see Jesus because I know she loved Him.
Then, when I came home for Christmas break, I didn’t get to come home to another two of my favorite residents (understand that several more passed away while I was at school, but there were a few that were truly special to me). One of them, I knew was going to pass, and I had known he had gone before I came home. When I was home for Mika’s confirmation, his daughter made certain that I got to see him (he always said I was his favorite, and he told one of the other girls that she was one of his two favorites…and that I was the other one). When I visited him, he told me that he was in stage 4 renal failure and was refusing dialysis, which meant that he could go at any time…he was taking it one day at a time, and he made it clear that he didn’t expect to see me at Christmas. But once again, I wasn’t really upset by his death either. He knew I loved him. Everyone who took care of him loved him. He was a retired minister with great faith. He prayed with me before I left for school in the fall (I remember him thanking God for sending me into his life to love him and care for him.), and he and I prayed together again when I visited him in November. I know that He went peacefully. His daughter even told me that his last words to her were that he was ready to go. I’m thankful for that.
The third death that really hit me was largely unexpected. I mean, she had been sick plenty of times, but we always joked that she had 15 lives. We joked that she was too stubborn to die. We had thought she was dead several times, but she always came back. What made it even more shocking was the fact that she died the night before I was supposed to return to work. I mean, I was really looking forward to seeing her. I loved singing with her and laughing with her. I loved her faith. I loved hearing her talk about Jesus. I loved hearing her laugh. I loved hearing her stories. I loved seeing her tooling around in the hallway. I loved her so much. Her death was a bit harder for me because she wasn’t as with it as the others. I’m not sure if she remembered that I love her, but I know in the moment she always knew I loved her.
I realized this week that I missed the three of them a lot! I was in one of their old rooms and caught myself hoping to see them on the other side of the curtain partition. I caught myself looking for them in their familiar haunts (in all the familiar places). I missed talking with them and laughing with them and just being around them. It was rough, and every now and then, I felt like crying. It was so permanent and so real, and it was hard to be missing good friends that way. It helped to talk with one of the other residents. She had been missing some of those same people. So, while I gave her a shower, we reminisced about them and laughed and missed them together. There were no tears, but I know we both needed that conversation.
Then on Tuesday, my neighbor up the street committed suicide. I guess he shot himself Tuesday morning. I don’t know much more than that. I was hurt by it somehow, though I hardly knew the guy. I think it was because it’s scary and sad that he thought that taking his own life was the best option. I mean, how terrible of a place, how dark and scary of a place was he in? (I clearly don’t mean physically. I mean emotionally and spiritually and all that.) Have I toyed with the idea before? Sure. Have I contemplated it in a scary way? Yeah. Have I ever tried it? No. How sad is it that he was left with no hope? Thought of no alternative? Death is inevitable. We will die, but to die without hope? That’s not a death I want to experience. It made me think even more fondly about my residents. It made me think about all the great times and how much I missed them. I thought about the pain his family must be experiencing. I thought about how I wanted to grieve but didn’t have the time. I thought about how I used to look forward to seeing them. I thought about the role they played in my life, and I prayed…prayed that Jesus would lovingly greet all of them. I prayed for the residents I care for now. I prayed that they would know they were loved and cared for and that we would be able to be a second family to them and be there for them in what will probably be their last years. This all happened as the song “Cry Out to Jesus” was playing in the background and I got a woman dressed. That’s when the chorus really started to hit me:
“There is hope for the helpless
Rest for the weary
Love for the broken heart
There is grace and forgiveness
Mercy and healing
He’ll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus”
I needed to hear that…not just in relation to my dearly departed…not just because being home can be rough…not just because I’m messed up…because it’s a reminder that the answer to the problems is in Jesus. I can’t work hard enough to solve my problems. I can’t study hard enough to solve my problems. I can’t fix it by myself. I need Jesus. I need Him desperately. Luckily, I know that He will always be there. He won’t leave me, forget me, or forsake me. That’s something I need to remember. I need to remember that I’m not alone. I’m extremely thankful for that. So thankful it brings me to tears.