on death and dying

29 06 2009

glass1Within the first few years of our adventures in Spain, my in-laws began an outreach to guys who were HIV positive.  It was the early to mid-1980’s and there wasn’t as much information about the whole subject like there is now.  All I knew was that when my kids went to spend the night at Yaya and Yayo’s – they’d be there with a couple of guys with AIDS.

Those “guys” became family and when the time came for one of them in particular, we took Best Boy and Shop Girl up to the hospital to say good-bye.  The nurses were flabbergasted that we had the kids with us – let alone that we were on the AIDS floor.  They were coming to say farewell to an “uncle”.

Somewhere along in that time frame,  Billy had cancer…so did my sister.  Reeling from all that reality, somewhere, somehow I got my hands on a book that has stuck with me all these years later.  Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s On Death and Dying was an early work that brought attention to how we process grief.  The Kübler-Ross model showed how the five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – are normal responses to dealing with the news of terminal illness and catastrophic loss.

The thing that really stuck with me is that people move through these stages on their own time.  You can’t move someone along – you can’t force them to the next step.  Nor do the steps come in perfect sequence.  One day you can be sent backwards for a matter of days or hours and the next instant be further along in the process.

Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Billy Mays…all names flashed before us on Headline News these days.  But my heart weighs heavier with Best Boy’s friend and business partner dealing with the news that he may or may not have 10 more years as he lives with an inoperable brain tumor.

We are all here – really.  We have no guarantees about the next breath. We just don’t know where our individual timeline drops off the page of life as we know it.  I’m entering into the time of year already when I first started blogging thinking I had more time for fun with Billy.  I look at pictures now – taken about a year ago – and think back to how I had no idea that we’d run out of space so quickly.

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.”  (Elizabeth Kübler-Ross)

There have been dark days and I’m sure there will be darker yet to come…sometimes I feel like it’s just a tiny flickering candle behind the frame but a little bit of light is still light.

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