You’re never ready when it hits you. Even if you saw them struggling and withering and fading away, you’re never ready for the moment the color fades and the lips soften and the last breath is taken. You’re never ready to hear the condolences or listen to cherished memories or see the newly posted pictures. You’re never ready to hear final goodbyes or hug unconsolable bodies or face unending days without them.
It’s debilitating and unfair and will leave you a destructive pile of hopelessness on whichever floor you were standing on when you heard the news. You won’t be able to see the end of a tunnel you’ve been forced to drive through without airbags, a seatbelt, or cruise control.
But there is a silver lining.
The darkness and destruction and sadness of death hides it. It’s hard to see through tears and sobs and grief. But the good is there. In between the D and the E is perspective. Hiding under the A is love. Crouching between the T and H is companionship. The finest facets of life, all found in death.
You’re reminded of humanity’s vulnerability. We live life like it’s the song that never ends. Suddenly it stops and we are standing awkwardly in the middle of a dance floor, unsure of what to do next. While waiting for the music to start again we realize how important it is to remember every melody and enjoy every lyric and cherish the ones that’ve been swaying along with us. We fall in love with dancing all over again. We remember to appreciate the people we share the dance floor with.
You realize that a person’s impact is never more apparent. Whether they met someone only once or went years before seeing someone again or spent every day with their best friend, their absence is palpable. You read stories and see pictures and wipe away tears and you realize that someone can be loved so much their death is not a definite goodbye. Their departure is not a final exit. They live on in memories and hearts and toasts and stories and pictures that will never fade. You’re reminded that people matter. They impact. They transform those they’ve touched and leave marks as permanent as a birthmark.
You’re reminded that the kindness of others can be blinding. People will reach out and words will be extended and the compassion so many usually reserve for their closest friends will be extended to perfect strangers. You’ll receive phone calls or flowers or messages or posts or a simple “I’m sorry” from best friends and acquaintances and people you’ve never met but are now forever bound to. You’ll be reminded of the good in people and the love in people and the innate desire in every soul to help those who are hurting.
Perhaps we shouldn’t need death to experience the silver lining. Perhaps life should be lived as if someone we love could die any day at any moment because, in reality, they can. But there’s no denying it. We grow complacent and we forget a person’s impact and we begin to reserve our kindness for a few. Perhaps it should be different and it’s hard to argue it isn’t sad but it is also a sign of unknown blessings.
The truth is, we are privileged to forget how precious life is. We worry about the inconsequential and the unnecessary because our lives are so unfathomable. Our existence is filled with so many amazing people and amazing experiences and amazing stories that, sadly, sometimes it takes a loss to truly appreciate it all.
So when it hits you and you aren’t ready. When their color fades and their lips soften and their last breath is taken. When you begin to hear condolences and cherished memories and see newly posted pictures. When you’re hearing final goodbyes and hugging unconsolable bodies and facing seemingly unending days without them, remember. Remember humanity’s vulnerability and a person’s ability to impact and the inherent kindness of others.
Remember your life is filled with amazing people and amazing experiences and amazing stories. Just like theirs.