“Death is terrifying because it is so ordinary. It happens all the time.” -Susan Cheever
If I had read this quote a year ago, or even six months ago, it would not have made sense to me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the thought of death has always been scary, but death itself had never been real. It was like the boogey-man. The thought of one is scary, but knowing that he’s not real makes it less scary. That’s what death was like for me–not real (mostly), and definitely not ordinary.
But I’ve learned that it is. I don’t know if I’ve just experienced it more in the past year, or if I’m just more aware and sensitive to it, but death is very real and very ordinary. I don’t like it. I suppose no one likes it.
I just feel like until this past year, I’ve been sheltered from it. Sure, I’ve lost a few people I knew and some great-grandparents that I was close with. Yes, those times sucked and made me sad. But those times, mostly, were expected. I was prepared mentally to deal with it.
I also never thought much about heaven until my mom died. That may sound weird for a Christian, but I just figured I’d get there when I get there and God would have it all worked out. I figured it would be this wonderful place, but for the most part, life on earth was pretty wonderful too. I didn’t care about the details and was in no hurry to get there. Then suddenly, after mom died, I felt this deep longing to be there. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want to die to be there, but all of a sudden the urgency of being there with her seemed much greater. Life on earth didn’t seem all that pressing or all that wonderful and I was ready for Jesus to pop back down and take us away.
I still haven’t figured out how someone is supposed to deal with death. I can’t imagine the pain ever going away. Part of me doesn’t want it to go away. But it does give you this unique experience, particularly with a parent, I’d imagine with a child also, that you don’t have with anyone except someone who has gone through it. A number of people I know have lost parents this year. My co-worker just lost both parents in a matter of weeks of each other. What I have now is this unique knowledge that I actually know kind of how they are feeling, in a general sense, not specifically. It’s a feeling I’ve never really been able to compare to anything else. It’s this missing piece inside and knowledge that there is absolutely nothing I can say that is going to help. You say it anyway, but you know it’s not comforting. And every single time it’s happened since my own mother passed (and it’s been frequent), I get that same punch in the stomach that I did when the doctors said, “I’m sorry for your loss.” I imagine that person getting that same punch.
So, ordinary? Perhaps.
Terrifying? Yes–more than the boogey man.