Seven weeks ago, my mother in law, Ida Callaway Hudson, passed away due to complications from chemotherapy. She courageously agreed to the treatment in hopes of prolonging her life because of significant events involving her grandchildren in the near future, but the treatment was simply too hard on her ailing body.
Though the way she died may seem unfair for someone so dedicated to family, her passing offers us all an example of fortitude in the midst of perhaps life’s greatest adversity; death.
In a period of less than four years, my wife and I have lost three of our four parents. These losses have brought grief evidenced with thousands of tears, dreams of them still being here, and flashbacks to wonderful times when they were with us. Nothing can fill the void of their absence here on earth and it is humanly impossible not miss them even as the time frame from their passing date extends. However, as numbing as death’s sting can be, I have learned several life lessons through my recent exposures.
I must preclude my commentary by saying that the three passings we have dealt with have been to parents who lived well and long. I cannot fathom the death of a child, a spouse or a younger family member because I have not experienced this up close and personal. Only those who have been there truly know what it is like. That being said, I cannot assume all of the following contents are applicable in every circumstance.
Death makes us all re-evaluate perspective. What is really important? Where do our priorities lie? Am I making a difference in this world? How can I learn from the person who just passed away? Do I love my family and fellow man the way they deserve and need to be loved? Death makes us slow down and appraise. It inspires to go beyond logic and discern what is in the heart. Death sobers us from the hectic intoxication of everyday living.
Death makes us look outside our box. It cannot help but increase our faith if this is an ardent desire. Death certainly increases our capacity to love if we allow it to. Our personalities are affected; our temperament changes; our desires to help one another increase; our sympathy level towards those in need elevates. Death takes the focus off oneself and places it on others.
Losing a loved one unites and or reunites families both immediate and extended. My mother’s sudden passing enriched the relationship between my brother’s household and mine. My dad’s death reached across two large cultures which he considered family, the University of Georgia and Georgia Southern University, and as a result many nice things have been done in his honor. My mother-in-law’s passing brought together several sets of kinfolk from different parts of the state to pay homage in what could be described as a family reunion. I realize death can also divide but only if human selfishness allows it to. I truly believe God’s intention is to bring all closer through the experience
Ironically, death allows folks to celebrate life. First, we memorialize the life of the person who passed and then we recognize how our own existence has been impacted by their presence. Remembrances can be held in a stadium with two thousand in attendance, or on the beach with a dozen, or under a tent with a grandson performing the eulogy. As strange as it sounds, a celebration of life not only offers opportunities for deep reflection but also provides junctures for humor when we need it most.
I miss my dad, (Erk), my mom, (Mimma), and now my mother-in-law, (Nana), like crazy. Hardly a day passes when I don’t tell an Erk joke, voice a Mimma expression, or ride by Nana’s house picturing her on the sofa holding court. At first I have a sense of sadness because of their physical absence. However, upon further review, I can’t help but crack a smile and experience peace knowing that for them, life is better than ever.
“Truly I tell you; today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)