We are never ready for death. The physical signs apparent, the dying person seemingly ready, but expected or not, whether an infant or elder, be it disease or accident, even the death of one for whom we have prayed death… we are never ready. Funeral professionals confront death every day, yet the intensity of death still surprises us. Though we have greater knowledge of death, it doesn’t make us ready. A finely tuned response mechanism for emotional pain does not make someone ready, and one’s faith may be strong enough to move mountains, but even religious fervor can find you unprepared. Though I have faced death-loss countless times, a recent loss reinforced my instinct to deny my loved-one’s departure. I knew it was coming; I wasn’t ready.
My dear friend and sister-in-law recently passed and I find myself wondering if we can ever be ready for the death of someone we love. Though I knew it was coming for a couple of months, and I read her memorial service and eulogy to her days before she died, still I wasn’t ready. Nearly two weeks now since her death, I begin every day thinking, “I’m not ready to say good-bye.” The song One More Day, by Diamond Rio describes the impasse perfectly, “One more day, I know what it would do, leave me wishing still for one more day with you.”
I am not ready for the lost feeling that follows the impulse to call her, not ready when I see pictures of us realizing there will be no more. I am not ready when people offer condolences and I don’t respond because doing so reminds me she is gone. I am not ready to think about next summer when we will no longer enjoy the warmth of the sun or share a cold beer over casual conversation. I am not ready to cross her off my Christmas-gift giving list or remember her birthday as a thing of the past. I am not ready …I am not ready….
As a writer for a funeral home, a seasoned bereavement companion, and a minister-chaplain I have spent untold hours thinking about, writing about and journeying with people through the days of death and grief. Death is natural to the life cycle. And still when death comes to me personally, I am not ready. How could I be, for the desire to live and love and treasure relationships is instinctive to living. I have lied to so many people on their deathbeds, including my sister-in-law saying, “We are ready whenever you are ready to go.” On rare occasions it was the truth, but the reality was that we were not ready. In the days following the death of someone we love, grief readies us as we struggle to move forward. Grieving gets us ready for the new relationship with our departed loved ones.
Rest in peace dear Donna, I was not ready to say good-bye, still not, but as I muse over the ending, I make ready for a new beginning, a fresh relationship built not merely on memory, but an eternal bond.