I have experienced a lot of death around me in the past six years, losing five people very close to me. One thing in life we are guaranteed: death. The subject alone brings about fear and anxiety in many people. Some people don’t want to talk about it, others may not know how to talk about it. And the people that you think are going to be there for you, often can’t show up, while people you wouldn’t expect to do so, rise to the occasion and offer a shoulder to cry on.
My uncle was at a mechanic shop recently when he blacked out. The owner of the shop called the paramedics and he was rushed to the nearest ER. Shortly after, the ER doctor admitted him into the hospital’s intensive care unit where he received a blood transfusion. They said he was in stable condition and would be fine. I went to visit him any way. Although he was weak, he mustered the energy to show off his charm. We laughed as he told stories of when I was a baby and about his youth. It was a good visit. The nurses assured me that he would pull through so there were no goodbyes, only “I’ll see you tomorrow.” Over night, though, his condition turned grave. His vitals crashed and his condition went from critical to “not going to make it” within a matter of a few hours. I remember the doctor and nurse walking through the hallway corridor with those grim looks on their faces. My heart felt for them. I knew they were going to be the bearers of bad news. That afternoon, my uncle’s heart stopped and he passed away.
I wondered how these people who work in hospitals, and how paramedics, firefighters, soldiers , and police officers deal with this day in and day out. How were they not affected by death? I know it has to affect them because the look on the doctor and nurse’s faces expressed their sorrow. Losing a loved one can be one of the hardest things in the world to overcome. Some people never get over the loss. No one wants to deal with or experience this. But when I was going through it, I was forced to deal with it. Each person will face this disappointment in their lifetime. We will all lose people around us, people that we love. It’s not a topic we can escape, and it’s become one I’ve had to explore.
As a result, I see life much differently now. If I focus on the fact that I’m going to die one day, that would be the wrong frame of mind to be in. Death is not the important factor; life is the key to focus on. How am I going to live my life while I’m alive? The only thing I can take with me when I die are the memories I’ve created with the people that I’ve love and care for. My last conversation with my uncle was a beautiful one filled with joy. He reflected upon our interactions together throughout the years and his happy moments with other people that touched his life. He wasn’t afraid of death — he seemed to know his time was up and he was ready to go. He had been diagnosed with a terminal disease eight years ago, so, in fact, we all knew it was only a matter of time. But in those eight years, he lived without hospital stays, hospice, and on his terms.
What I have been pondering on after his passing is the meaning of life. You see, in the end my uncle didn’t talk about the bad things that happened to him in his life. He only remembered and focused on the good ones. I remember saying, “goodnight” while his eyes closed. He went to sleep that night and never woke up.
They say the opposite of anger and fear is love. When I was faced with the reality of watching my uncle become frail and weak, I found comfort in holding his hand and telling him I loved him. It helped in breaking down any fear I had around death and instead empowered it with love. I am so grateful that I had that time with him. If he stayed here, he only would have suffered. I do believe in something greater than what we know or can prove. I have faith that he is in a better place. Perhaps he is with his parents and brother and sister.
This loss isn’t personal nor meant to knock me down. It was meant to wake me up, to push me to live my life on my terms and to find my own happiness and create my own memories. Until I meet him again in the afterlife… I will cherish those moments we shared and go on, live life with gratitude and a heart filled.