via Daily Prompt: Distant
There is nothing more elusive than death, yet it is very close. My mother’s most over-used expression was the same every time she was told that someone had died, “In the midst of life we are in death.” Before the words could come out of her mouth, I could hear myself saying them in my head. I wanted to ask her if she had nothing else to say, but I dared not open my mouth because my prized white teeth would have suffered the worst blow that any mortal could have inflicted on a child. Moreover, she said it with such “other-worldly” solemnity that I feared that by uttering a word I would be the next person to whom those words would relate.
Anyone within earshot of mama’s declaration would become quiet although she never requested a moment of silence. The response was born out of an understanding of a dimension of life that my young mind did not comprehend. It was like the hushed respect of a congregation before a pastor prays. It happened so quickly regarding time, but the moment seemed interminable to me. There was nothing orchestrated about the silence so I could never plan for my response regardless of how uncomfortable I felt. The truth is my mother never prepared her reaction to death or dying so although her verbal response was always the same, it was still spontaneous and sincere. The news of the death was unexpected because everyone was concerned with living.
During my childhood and greater part of my early adulthood, the people who died in my extended family were few. Sometimes, I felt like death only occurred in other families and not mine. When I turned 27, my maternal grandmother died and then as I approached my middle thirties two of my older relatives died. During my forties, one of younger cousins died of cancer. His death was the most unexpected because he was tough, fit, and vibrant. My mother was on to something – he was fully in the midst of life when death grabbed him. My maternal grandmother would have reflected on his death and quoted the words of Henry W. Longfellow, “The young may die, but the old must die!” and she would have added her own, “One thing in life is life is sure, and that is death so it does not discriminate.”
As a child, I thought my mother was always going to be with me. As I grew older, I accepted the fact that my parents were not immortal. However, I expected them to live to a ripe old age, and in the distant future, I would have to deal with their dying. God had other plans, and my mom died as soon as she celebrated her 71st birthday. It’s still hard to believe that she is no longer alive and I cannot communicate with her. I can still hear her words and I understand them better now that she is gone.
Death is not a distant concept because it occurs every minute. Every living person is going to face it whether he thinks about it or not. We also do not have the opportunity to return to this life to tell our friends and families about it. All that we will know about it is what we already know about life. The best preparation for it is to live our lives fully: loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our soul, all our strength, all our mind; and our neighbors as ourselves.