Death takes us down diverse paths
Saturday, October 06, 2012 8:52 PM
Two people. Two deaths. Two ways of dealing with loss.
One lost his wife and partner of 40-some years, the other lost his son. Both deaths were quick and unexpected. There was no time for planning goodbyes. Both were devastating losses. A husband generally expects to be outlived by his wife, a father never expects to bury his child.
"Jim" and his wife were at home. She said she wanted to watch TV. Suddenly, she is out. Not breathing. A call is placed to 911, a neighbor tries to help. Eventually, at the hospital, a heart-wrenching decision is made. He has to let her go.
"Bill" was out of town. He got a phone call. His young son had been in a bad wreck. He was ejected from the car. Severe injuries, especially to the brain. He was told the family might have a decision to make regarding life support. God made the decision, and just more than a week after the wreck, his son passed.
Both have had to work through their losses as best they can. They are probably beyond the "why" stage, but each day is yet another with a painful void.
JIM HAS STAYED busy with work and his ambition to get into public service, a decision reached in conjunction with his wife well before her unexpected passing.
He recently shared he still talks with his wife each day. It's seemingly little things, such as the morning conversations they would typically have while getting ready for the day, he hangs onto and does. Such activities are normal, he was relieved to hear from someone who can empathize.
Indeed, wouldn't it be normal to talk to the person you have known since you were both in college, whom you have shared your life with since those days? She was not just Jim's wife, she was his very best friend.
Everything, from those morning conversations to meals, from TV programs watched together to some of the most minuscule tasks carried out under one roof, plays through the mind. Only now, it might be like watching someone else's life, as those scenes play out as memories as Jim can no longer experience them wholly and fully as he did when she was there.
He takes each day as it comes, having the morning conversations and going through the routines that life requires of us who are left behind.
And he takes comfort in having family here, family he can spend time with.
AND BILL? IN THE DAYS his son lay in the hospital's ICU, he found some comfort and solace in a kayak on Lake Greenwood. There, away from the busyness of a hospital filled with people and machines intent on saving lives, Bill was able to reflect on the 22 short years he had with his son. Open water and a sunset helped clear his mind. And the lake brought back memories of days he spent fishing with his son. Good memories, good smiles through the tears.
Bill has also dealt with the loss of his son another way, a way that has brought him great comfort. Although his son was on this earth only 22 years, in another sense he will live on for years to come, and in many ways.
You see, Bill's son was an organ donor and shortly after he died, the medical staff was able to harvest vital organs. And more.
Bill thought it nothing short of amazing that skin grafts, bone, corneas, internal organs taken from his son would benefit more than a hundred individuals.
Someone else will see because of Bill's son. Another will have a shot at more years, thanks to his liver, his heart. Chances are Bill will never know or meet any of these many people whose lives will be saved or improved because of his son, but that's OK with him. His personal loss is simply more bearable with that knowledge.
TWO PEOPLE. TWO DEATHS. Two finding their own paths as they now walk with one less set of footprints beside them.
Whiting is executive editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-2522; email firstname.lastname@example.org ,or follow him on Twitter at IJEDITOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.