Friday, April 25, 2014

Then comes Monday morning

     Death happens at the most inopportune time. With a blink of an eye, life changes forever. That’s been on my mind, and the column pretty much wrote itself.
    The trauma of sudden death jolts every single one of us in a community. Someone told me that a couple hours before a recent car-pedestrian accident, she was talking to the child. Now, he’s deceased.
      Tragic youth death — accidental death at any age for that matter — and school violence takes its toll. There’s not a lot of sense to make of it, and it leaves you feeling vulnerable wherever you go. You hug your kids a bit tighter; tell your grandkids how much you love them and make the phone call to someone you’ve forgotten recently.
     Your thoughts lift up those involved, and you praise our police officers, first responders and grief support teams that jump into action using their training.
     Sometimes trauma and suffering lingers far longer, also forcing you to take notice of your fragility as a human being.
     People robbed of living a full life by cancer or any other illness require hours and hours of loving effort by professionals, families and friends. It doesn’t always end prettily. It’s exhausting, and until you’ve walked in those shoes, indescribable.
     Two teenage boys lost their mom recently to cancer. She had kept the positive attitude, but complications shortened her life. I became acquainted with her and her
loving husband years ago when they were starting their family. Recently, I ran into them at a grocery store where I could see strain on their faces. Time was drawing near, and each extra day together was being counted as a blessing.
     That ugly, angry question, “Why me?” does no good if but for a few minutes of self-pity.
     The peaceful death of an elderly person who has lived out life well encourages us all to relish in the happy memories.
     Death is final. The hurt is dreadful, and it never gets any easier, although in time more bearable. Losing parents, children and siblings close huge chapters in our lives.
     And then comes Monday morning. The funeral is over, family members have scattered and job responsibilities that have been left unfinished beckon. It is the hardest, perhaps loneliest roller coaster ride of it all.
     Regaining your normalcy, if there ever is to be such a state again, takes a whole community gently helping you through.
     That is where the good-hearted people begin to fill the gaps. They literally come out of the woodwork in honor of the deceased. It is a way for them to grieve purposefully, and by osmosis, hope for a better tomorrow springs forth a little at a time.
      Life is about staying attentive to what is immediately in front of you. A simple walk on a new route, or forcing yourself to attend your regular monthly lunch with former co-workers lifts your spirits. The grieving process has to be played out in order to reach higher ground.
      You find your own unique way to sooth your soul, and often it surprises you how just one person sent at the very right time into your life can nudge you forward on a day that appears miserable with no way out. You don’t want to go on, but you have no other choice.
     An opportunity to help others stands out in the local newspaper, and it is made to order for you. Then in other cases, a new baby is born and the cycle of life continues. A little one brings happiness and refocuses the dynamics of the family circle.
      In my active teaching days I lost far too many students, and it continues. I feel for the parents in each case robbed of their child, but also, I realize that they are cherishing the bright memories that they are fortunate enough to have had. I know I do. I will never forget each one, especially the image that comes back to me of a particular face in the classroom laughing, furrowed brow studying and asking the one impossible question I could not answer.
     Many folks take up volunteering bringing joy and help to others whether it is through a church, service club or agency. You hear them say how the rewards come in equal proportion to their giving. It’s great for staying healthy, too.
     Looking around the area there is an abundant need for volunteers in the fire department, ambulance crew, Meals on Wheels, Faith in Action or the Office of the Aging.
     School systems would be appreciative of volunteers who can give a little one-on-one tender loving to children who are struggling. A local hospice facility provides a way for you to find comfort in helping others at a most difficult transitional period.
     People often feel that they are isolated in small communities far from a city with its myriad of activities. If you really look a little harder, you would find book groups at area libraries, craft classes and computer support groups there as well. Historical societies not only have programs, but they might have a need for an extra pair of hands.
     Support groups and wellness groups through churches and hospitals are regularly held for people with specific requirements.  
     Our life on earth is but for a fleeting moment. Lean on your personal source of strength and guidance.  
     Reach out and help someone else struggling after loss. You may never know how much it means. And remember, it is not necessary to receive a thank you. Just be there.