Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Problem with Death

The other day I was training a client and he said something very interesting to me. He said “I realized the other day that I get to experience two things in life that men my age hardly ever get to experience. One is having a 90 year old father and the other is having a seven year old son.” My client is in his 60s and if you think about it, he’s absolutely right. How many men in their 60s still get to talk with their father, let alone have a son who’s still in elementary school?

In a similar manner, I've realized that at 34 years old, I’m inexperienced in something most people my age are not; I have very little experience with death. 

There are only three deaths I’ve experienced in life that have caused me a memorable amount of pain. One was my grandpa, one was my childhood dog, and one was a friend. But even these experiences seem distant. I was young when my grandpa died, I’d been away at college for a while before we had to put Sassy to sleep, and I hadn’t been in contact with my friend for almost a year when he passed away. 

While there have been funerals I’ve attended and acquaintances I’ve seen laid to rest, I've never lost anyone I was extremely close with. That is until two days ago, when my wife and I had to say goodbye to Henry, our beloved Basset Hound. 

If you know either me or my wife, you’ll know that “beloved” is an understatement. Our lives revolved around Henry. Our phones and Facebook pages are filled with pictures and videos of him. We tell stories about him to anyone who will listen. We talked to him, sang to him, and snuggled with him every single night. He made us happier than almost anything else in life, and we loved him more than almost anything on Earth.

My wife and I have been married almost nine years, and Henry has been with us for the entire ride. Until this weekend. This weekend will be the first weekend we’ve been married without Henry. 

The problem with death is that it slows down time exactly when we wish it wouldn’t. 

Most of us spend our lives in a state of perpetual motion. Everything seems to be moving faster and faster and we all just wish it would slow down. 

But then we lose a loved one, and time stands still.

As we snuggled with Henry on the bed in his final hours on Earth, the clock seemed to mock us as it ticked by. 

One second less. 

One second less. 

One second less. 

As we drove home from the vet, and walked into our quiet home without him, the clock creeped by.

One second more. 

One second more. 

One second more.

When we lose a loved one, all we want is for time to speed up so that we can put as much of it between ourselves and when the tragedy occurred. It’s not that we want to forget, we just want to remember without the pain, without the punch in the gut and the urge to dry heave. We want our regrets to fade. We want to remember the good times without needing to cry. 

To make the time pass, we distract ourselves. We check Facebook every other minute, we drink too much, we play video games or watch TV or buy things online. 

I admit, I’ve done all of these things over the last few days and I probably will for several more days to come. 

On the other hand, I want to make sure I don’t surrender completely to the distractions, because I want to appreciate the pain. 

The pain we feel after a loved one dies is proof that they mattered. It proves they played a meaningful roll in our life and that we’re better for having known and loved them. 

I hope somebody misses me someday as much as I miss Henry. 

Until then, it’s my job to ensure I become that kind of person who will be missed.



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