The whole concept of death scares the crap out of me. That should be no surprise, given what I’ve been through.
What’s weird is that right after my husband died...I didn’t feel that way.
For at least a good year after he was gone...I really felt like life was just a big crap-shoot. I mean...my husband was in an accident on his way to work. So I spent a good part of my time thinking, “Well. My mailbox is across the street. I could bite the dust just checking my mail.”
I wouldn’t say that I didn’t care about life. I just really understood the concept that it didn’t matter how “in control” I’d like to be...life could throw me a curveball at any time.
And death is like a speedy curveball with a twist.
When I was well into year 2, my sister and I were on the phone talking about all of the people we knew who were sick or who were dealing with the impending death of a loved one and I started to wonder...when did we become 90 years old?
My sister said, “Ugh. Do we just know people with the worst luck or something? What is going on?”
I thought about it for awhile and I realized...that really wasn’t the case. It was just that as we got older...our social circles were widening and, as I had already figured out...life could strike without any warning.
As good friends and somewhat good family members, my sister and I don’t shy away from what needs to be done. And that has made us the “go to” people for the people we know.
This is because my mother trained us so well. If someone is sick...we’re there. If someone is having surgery...you check and see if their spouse or relative has someone to sit with them in the waiting room. If they don’t...you better find a sitter and get your ass down there to keep them company. If things are going on in our own immediate family...we divide and conquer. One person makes sure that the paperwork is done and the people are okay at the hospital...the other makes sure that there is food and clean sheets waiting for them when they get home.
I’m still waiting for an award in our honor: “The Family That Gets Shit Done.”
It’ll look prettier with a swirly font.
I have the perfect example of this. A few weeks ago, my mom and I were just catching up on every day stuff when she said, “Did I tell you what happened last Friday?”
I said “no,” wondering what she was getting ready to throw at me.
Her neighbor’s cousin, who lives way up in the mountains, had given birth to a premature baby and her neighbor (the cousin’s closest relative in CO) was out of town. Now, this girl’s husband couldn’t be with her because he couldn’t leave their ranch (their only income) and she was living in the Ronald McDonald house here in Denver so that she could take care of the baby until they could, hopefully, take her home.
Never one to just let people sit alone in a hospital, my mother happened to call this girl, who she didn’t know, and ask her, “Would you like me to come down and sit with you?”
She told me the weak 23 year old voice on the other end of the phone said, “Yes. Please. If you could.”
My mother left her house and by the time she got down to the hospital...the baby had passed away. She sat there, with this girl she didn’t really know, who was holding this precious baby...until the hospital staff thought to ask, “Now...who are you?”
While my mom told me that story that day, and we both cried together, she said, “I’m just glad I remembered to call.”
And all I could think was, “I come from damn good people.”
We all know by now...that with life...comes death. With happiness comes sadness. Without one...you can’t know the other. But there are times when I just want to hole up in my house...stay away from everyone. The further I can stay away from people...the further I can stay away from tragedy.
There’s one thing that is really wrong with that theory. The further I stay away from people...the further I stay away from...life. If I stay away from sadness...there’s no way I’ll ever really know happiness. If I don’t take any chances...because, after all...that’s what life is...
...I won’t live.
I’ve been dealt a shitty hand. No...don’t argue with me (as if you would)...I really have. I’ve learned a lesson I shouldn’t have until I was 100 with dementia so bad that my husband could have easily been replaced with the orderly that gives an exceptional sponge bath. I’ve figured out, first-hand, what it’s like to be without. And I’m not talking about money or tangible things.
I’m talking about something I just can’t replace.
But I can’t turn back now. I’m in it. The powers that be must have asked Life and me, “til death do you part?” and in my apparent drunken Vegas before-life...I must have agreed.
I worry about the realities of life. “What if” used to just be something I thought of like, “What if I won the lottery? What would I do??” But after what I’ve been through the “what if” turns into, “What if I meet someone, a friend or a future significant other...and the same thing happens all over again???”
What if I am the person who reaches out to someone when no one else will?
What if there’s happiness waiting for me but I won’t know until I look for it?
What if there are a few more years of a good life left in this old girl?