Sunday, July 22, 2007

Grief, Mourning, Life and Death

Today we visited a former neighbor whose dog, Amos, was good pals with our dog Sparkey when we lived in their country neighborhood a few years ago. Sparkey died last September (see his blog, Latter Day Sparks), and now Amos has cancer in his front leg and is not long for this world. It was a sweet visit, and Amos was as loving as always, excitedly greeting us and our little dog Tina, Sparkey's surviving "sister" who herself is nearly thirteen.

As my step-father enters the final stages of metastatic pancreatic cancer, grieving and death remain subjects which inform my every day life. Also, as a nurse, death is always in the wings and periodically pays a visit to our office, whether expected or not.

I am currently reading Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, the chronicle of Didion's life as it was effected by the sudden death of her husband of forty years only several weeks after her daughter had lapsed into a coma from a sudden viral illness. Losing her daughter two years later, her entire immediate family had been claimed by death, and Didion used this book as a means to describe both her grieving, which she calls a passive process that simply happens to an individual, and her mourning, the act of dealing with grief.

Sparkey's death last September 2nd, my best friend's murder in 2001, my step-father's cancer, the aging of Mary's and my parents in general----this all adds up to a fact of life: that death, and the grieving and mourning therein, are inescapable. Additionally, death and death-related processes only become more common as one grows older, facing the loss of family members, friends, colleagues, and other individuals in one's general orbit.

Still, in the face of death, life goes on, and we forge ahead in spite of it all. Life and death are not mutually exclusive, and we must face death and grieving as courageously as we face life and living. Death is neither convenient nor welcome at any time, but we all must accept that it is as inescapable as the wind.
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