There are plenty of directions on birth!
No one gives directions on death.
It is not as fun.
Here is my new learners manual on the subject.
You are welcome to use it because some day you will need one…
Learners Manual on Death
(Or at least for the one’s staying behind)
1. DO MORE: When I tell you my loved one has just passed away, your instinctive reply is, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” But here is something to add when you say those words: Touch me. Put your arms around me and hug me. If you don’t feel comfortable, do it anyway. If that is too much closeness for your comfort then touch my hand or arm and don’t let go right away. Do one thing more that connects you to me than only “those sorry words.” I am hurting and need human warmth. I am sad. I feel alone and lonely right now, and touch is the remedy.
2. SLOW MOTION: Life does go on but not for me–right away. I am in slow motion as the world is on fast forward. Be patient with my brain and my emotions for awhile. Maybe even a long while. I am in a fog. I am trying to adjust to earth life without my loved one taking up that space they once did. There is a lot to deal with around death that isn’t about my loved one. Distraction is necessary and sometimes good, but don’t forget this is really all about an actual person who died and is gone. I am mourning them gone and out of my life. It is my loss. That won’t take a few hours or days or perhaps even years to get over. I may never get over it!
3. REMEMBER: When you talk to me and ask me how I am, please ask me to tell you something I remember or love about the person who just passes away. Please let me reminisce. I don’t want to forget them! I want to talk about them. One thing I have been doing to help this for me is write in my journal one or more memories that I am thinking about each day about the deceased. That is a strange word…the deceased. No, it’s my mom–once a human, my friend that was always there, now an angel.
4. HONOR: If you notice I am gloomier than normal and don’t seem to find much joy in life that is alright for some time. I want to honor my loved one and engaging too quickly back into life makes me feel that I am being disrespectful. It feels strange and uncomfortable.
5. SOOTHES: Allow me to do the mundane things of life which are routine and normal for me. This soothes me. Especially allow me to move at a slower pace. That makes me feel safe. Don’t make big changes! Don’t plan a big trip or do something completely out of the ordinary to “get me out of my mood.” I am not ready. I want to wrap myself up in a blanket and hibernate. I will be ready in the future but not just yet. Don’t make me in charge of anything big or give me gifts…it is all too much for me right now. I am dealing with a change that takes time to process!
6. REST: Let me rest. I am emotionally exhausted.
7. COMFORTS: If I don’t act hungry, possibly comfort foods will soothe me a little.
6. SLOW DOWN: Letting go is a process and should not be hurried. That goes for my loved one’s things too. I may not be ready to clean out the closets or even throw away food that was eaten by them. Everyone travels at a different time frame to the steps of grieving. Allow each family member or friend to go through the process in their own time. Allow me that because I am going to do it anyway.
7. TALK: Children need to be talked to. Silence makes them more afraid. Explanations of death can be a sweet bonding moments. But allow me to tell my children that I am sad and feeling a hole in my heart. They can help me feel better. It is important for them to learn strategies of coping. This is best with a little communication, not ignoring it.
8. WEARY: Check in with me often. Write me a little note. Come over even if I tell you I am fine and don’t want company. Go with the flow and don’t overstay. I am emotionally exhausted and weary to the bone. But I need you to notice me and don’t leave me alone too long.
9. BLAH BLAH BLAH: Don’t overdo with the cliche’s or joke too much. They divert the emotion but after awhile they begin to grind at my nerves and I get sick of you.
10. STORIES: They say TIME heals. I want to remember. But I know the most important thing to do after my grieving has ebbed is to turn around and walk back into life and love it even more. Hug more, listen better, slow down and notice, enjoy simple things, feel more grateful, trust in the Lord, expect miracles, and keep a wiser perspective on what is truly important. Death scares the heck out of me. But death reminds me about something precious too, I am still alive. I am still here to offer the world something unique! Remember the sweetness of past memories but move on and get writing my own wonderful story and don’t forget to listen to the whispers of those who have gone on because they are watching and helping me along that journey.
11. COMPASSION: When you tell me you lost your loved one. I will say I am so sorry. But I will hug you because my heart understands how you feel, the hole is still there from my own loss.
12. TRUST: Trust God. He made up death. It’s really opening that door back home to HIM where I began.
One month before my mother’s birthday I wanted to somehow pull our family all together encircling her in a big hug. This idea came to me and became a HUGE hit with everyone. I decided to send out mass e-mails, to all her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, short little snippets–fun facts about her life each day of that month gearing up to her birthday as the finale. Her life was hanging by a thread; so fragile and we didn’t know how much longer she would be with us. Bless her heart, she lived through that month and read every single one and loved them all! We had so much fun learning about her life and enjoying these memories with her! This is the very last fun fact that I sent out and really allows us a peek into her dear soul:
Grandma often speaks of her angels. Her angels surprise her when work gets done when she doesn’t ask. “Oh look, my little angels emptied the dishwasher!” Her angels surprise her when ingredients just show up in the cupboard. “Oh my goodness gracious, my little angels put some extra brown sugar in there!” Her angels help her when she loses things. “Oh phew, my little angels found my glasses! And they always came through during frightening or sad moments. “It’s okay darling, our angels are close by, they will protect us from the lightening and thunder.”
Here are the four main life lessons for us to never forget from her angels:
one: We are always surrounded by angels and that should give us great comfort.
two: We could be an angel to someone one else and that will give others great joy.
three: There is a powerful source to which we can rely that sends those angels. That source is a loving Heavenly Father who knows us and loves us even more than Grandma… hard to imagine but it is true…
four: Grandma is one of those angels.
I was not there to say good-bye or hold my mother’s hand the night she died. I live too far away. My world inside felt as cold and gray as the weather felt outside. I sat at the window with my head in a fog blinded by the white expanse of the yard smoothed over with layers of cold white snow. Then something picked up my body, bundled it, put on boots as if I were a puppet. I walked out to the yard and instantly knew why I was there. Crunch… crunch… crunch… went the rhythm of my footprints sinking into the snow. The steam from my breath blurred my vision as it mixed with my tears. I wiped my eyes as I walked and jumped and retraced my sinking steps trying to make the letters big enough to see from heaven! Then I fell in the middle of the crooked heart and cried for my mom–but I caught myself because I worried my neighbors would think I was crazy. So I quickly lied down in the middle of that tiny plot of earth in 16 degree weather on the day my mother died. I made a snow angel, then walked inside, wet and exhausted. As I entered and took off my coat, I became very angry because this is what I saw from my window…
“NOW MY MOTHER’S LETTER WILL BE FILLED UP AND SHE WON’T BE ABLE TO READ IT!” I said out loud to myself yelling at the snow! My sorrow overflowed and my weary body sunk into the chair. I placed my head in my hands while drips from my boots and tears watered the floor.
As I sat by the window, I noticed the snow lasted only a few minutes and then it stopped as quickly as it came. Then is when I heard a quiet whisper in my mind and it said…
‘Your mother read your snow message and she answered you back sending this beautiful feathered snow in reply, “I love you, too…”
Several blog posts ago there was a picture of my mother’s casket. Swirling all around her, in the wind was beautiful white feathers. This experience is the meaning behind that photo. I wanted to share this thought with you even though it is very personal and tender to my heart.
I believe Heaven is not far away…
The very morning my mother passed away, January 26th, I sent out a mass family e-mail. It read:
No one visit the cabin for the next week! Grandpa has taken Grandma to the cabin, and since he hasn’t seen her for over 21 months he has placed a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the front door! Let’s allow them some private time.
Here they are in their angel clothes standing outside the cabin.
This is the view I will see when I see them again one day…
They are together once again!
It makes my heart burst with joy!
It’s been 2 weeks today since I buried my mom…
For the next little while my posts will be a waste of your time,
but not mine.
A “downer” for you, so stop reading.
I am in grieving time, and that is okay.
The tears do not flow on the outside as frequently as they did-
yet I continue to cry on the inside.
Searching through my silent world
I seek an outlet for my tears.
And so, once again I turn to the arts.
My medium will be words—
my canvas will be my blogs.
I don’t have the energy or desire
to make the effort for a mess.
Here is my expression today…
The “D” word.
It is much more terrifying than the awful “F” word.
The “D” word lives in every living thing’s nightmares–The “D” word is DEATH.
The “F” word—just a release of negative energy; crude and vulgar—
but not usually feared to hear even though it is offensive to most.
But the “D” word– it goes deep to the core for us all.
And often we don’t want to think of it,
hear of it, or speak of it until it shakes us and
stares us in the face, leaving us to face the reality—
if we can even get our heads around the reality of death.
Certainly we don’t want to read a blog post about death–especially a cancer blog post!
Why would we? We can barely even say the “D” word as it stares us in the face!
Yet we watch it perhaps every single night on television or in movies,
we read about it everyday.
We can’t keep our curiosity away from sneaking a peek.
Why is that?
Something that we are terrified of we enjoy watching—steps away.
Does virtually looking make us feel as conquerors—.
Perhaps is it because we all know
we are standing
on that same escalator
second by second,
minute by minute,
hour by hour
as time won’t stop ticking!
Sometimes we try to run down a few steps
to keep us from moving closer to that terrifying end,
some of us even choose to do things which move us up a few stairs,
some scoot up way too fast not by choice–
but we can’t get off.
We know we can never get off.
That escalator makes me feel weird right now
as someone close to my heart
has finished her ride.
I hate the “D” word.
It makes me lonesome.
It makes me homesick.
It makes me tired.
It makes me afraid…
It makes me…
to the only thing I know
to hold on to
which is…LIFE and LOVE!
Hmmm…the “L” words.
When we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil, some of them we walk and talk with—here, now, everyday…
Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind.
Jeffrey R. Holland