Finding Simplicity in Death

I received word on Tuesday that my great, great Aunt Gerry had passed away at the age of 85 years. While this announcement didn’t shock me, as she had been on a roller coaster of health issues the past several months, it instead built up my concern for my family. This was mainly for my mother, the only relative that lived within fifteen minutes to Aunt Gerry’s home.

I’m not going to say that my experience with death of family members was ever easy–I mean hey, it’s death. But at the same time, when the announcement of a death in my family comes around, I always get concerned with the issues the closest family members have to handle. The will, the funeral arrangements, writing the obituary–all things that have to be taken care of, all while mourning the loss of a loved one. While I, fortunately, have never had to deal directly with those problems, I still see the toll it takes on my mom and her sister, in each instance that they have had to do this.

Death itself has never scared me. It’s an inevitable fate for all of us, and there is literally no way to avoid it. We’ve all felt the pain of loss at one point or another. But today, as we brought Aunt Gerry’s casket to the cemetery, something struck a chord in me.

It could have been the knowledge of the car Aunt Gerry left me (much to my surprise). It might have been the poor little Chow she left behind. It could have been the fact that it was my first time as a pall bearer. It also could have been the pastor’s sermon, which to me seemed a bit too negative and fear-mongering. It even could have been all of these things in tandem, causing me my stress. Whatever factor or combination of factors it may have been, I realized, while death itself is simple,  its immediate after effects are overwhelmingly complicated.

My only relief from this great amount of stress was a poem my mom found, written by my grandmother who passed away in 2004, addressed to Aunt Gerry on Mother’s Day in 1998. It was a simple, straightforward yet heartfelt poem expressing her love and gratitude for Aunt Gerry’s influence on her life. Hearing those words and seeing my grandmother’s handwriting for the first time in ages brought me a sense of relief. Amid all the chaos, we had found a source of peace.

That little twinge of the fear of death had been relieved.

In short, I’ve realized that I shouldn’t worry about how my death is going to affect the world around me, or how the inevitable death of my family members will affect me. When that day comes, I will deal with the pain by finding solace in the memories that made them special to me in the first place.

In the end, it’s not about worldly possessions or hefty funeral bills. It’s about the memories. And that’s all that matters.

Rest in Peace, Aunt Gerry. You will be greatly missed.

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