Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Life and Death

My friend's father passed away yesterday. He was 94. Almost a century of life behind him. It feels odd to consider the recently deceased "lucky", but living a life of almost a century with your companion by your side is definitely a blessing with more than a little bit of luck tossed in.

Somehow the fact that someone lived a full life for almost a century just feels good, it sits well when you think about it. So much so that it makes you react with a mixture of joy and sorrow when you hear of their death. It's very different than when someone dies young. But death is still a loss, no matter the age or quality of a life lived, and we need not forget that.

And as final as death is, as sad as it might be, it can be a relief too.

Taking care of a 94-year-old isn't a walk in the park, no matter how much help you have. Heck, taking care of a 75-year-old can be tough (almost as bad as a teenager). But that could take up an entire blog entry and teenagers(one, specifically) are not the topic of today's post.

I've watched three men take care of an elderly parent over the span of my life. I have watched them do laundry, take care of the shopping, clean house, run errands, drive to doctor appointments, change diapers, bathe and feed their Mom or Dad.

I watched my Dad take care of my Grandma and Grandpa for many years, some of that time working along side my Aunt Jean.

I watched my husband take care of his mother as her health declined following a fall resulting in a broken hip, multiplied by the rapid acceleration of  dementia into full-blown Alzheimer's. She lived with us as long as we could manage it, and we have some amazing memories of fun and laughter with Grandma, but I also remember the tougher times and Hal's amazing patience and dedication to making certain his mother was clean and comfortable and taken care of.

And I have been aware of my friend Ed over the past year as he would spend time with his parents, or not join in a group dinner because it was his weekend for laundry duty. He and his sister helped take care of their parents after they moved into an assisted living home. It's Ed's father who passed away yesterday. Ed had been with him most of the weekend.

And each of these experiences, where I have been an observer much more than a participant, has given me a greater respect for the respective caregiver. I have literally watched in awe. It's not easy, and it's not something anyone can do, but what better way to show respect, love and honor for your parent and the sacrifice(s) they made for you over the span of your lifetime than to take care of them as they took care of you so many years ago. The ultimate "giving back" opportunity.

And what a strong indication of character. These three men showed something in their personalities that many don't even have. There are certainly other ways to develop character, this is simply one that I have witnessed personally and feel motivated to comment on by the recent loss of Ed's Dad.

Life can be short, or it can last for 94 years, and the only thing we can be certain of is that it will come to an end. Knowing that, we should always make every moment count for good by helping others, being true to ourselves, living with love, honoring our family, giving back and setting an example by our actions.

Death will steal our breath, but it won't erase our reputation or alter the degree of character we built or lost during our lifetime.

Character is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we sure don't want to miss our turn, because death is ahead of all of us.

Live, Love, Laugh. And then as we all will someday, leave this life with honor and a sense of a life well-lived.

Life and Death. In the end, just as in the beginning, that's really what it's all about.

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