Who Will Be There For Me When I Die?
Leonard Cohen was not there when his former muse and long-term friend, Marianne Ihlen, died. But within hours of hearing that she was dying, he reached out to her in a letter and she is said to have literally reached out to him. Two days later, she died.
This makes me think again, as if I needed reminding—who will be there for me, when I die?
These days I think about dying and death more than ever before. Perhaps I should have started with that a long time ago. Then a lot of things might be clearer for me about dying and death.
Now, in my 50s, I am at an age when people that I know are dying. I have been treated for cancer; and my 80-year-old mother and I are wondering who of the two of us will die first. Death is an unavoidable topic. It has always been and will always be.
There are stories where people are said to have held on until others arrived (or left?), or waited for dates and events to pass before they let go and died.
With predictable regularity, I read articles about the very same topic at the beginning of each year. They say there is a spike of deaths in January, and not just because of the cold season.
And so, I sometimes wonder, who I would like to be there for me, or not, when it is my turn to die.
And I also think about the people who have died, without me having had a chance to say goodbye, sorry, forgive me, I forgive you, or I love you, or to ask why….
1. My Father
I could not say goodbye to my father, who died unexpectedly in hospital, alone, the night before he was due to be discharged.
We had trouble speaking with each other in a way that was open and meaningful. I know it pained us both, and sometimes I had to cut through it all by hugging him, or just holding his hand, briefly.
He was a troubled man, all his life, and that troubled us all. It still troubles me, and 3 years on, I am still struggling to make peace and say goodbye.
2. The Other Person
The other person who comes to mind is someone who meant a lot to me once, but things were not meant to be. Actions speak louder than words, and his actions never delivered what the words promised.
We met in 1992; then, we did not have contact again for some 15 years. When I was ready to reach out once more, to say something, anything, to make peace, I was not ready to make direct contact.
I googled his name, and the first item that came up was his obituary.
3. My Former Therapist
The third person is my former therapist, who accompanied me for many years through a lot of introspection, changes, my own therapy training, and so much more.
When I told him about the lump I found, he did not flinch. Then, I felt stronger. I knew, “I can do this and face my cancer.”
During the time of my cancer treatment, he became ill, was unable to support me, and 5 months later he died, of cancer.
These are three people that I would like to reach out to, and make peace with, before I die have gone before me. They are dead. No more explanations.
But I am taking their memories with me into every new day. I am trying to no longer delay asking for the truth. Even if I do not get an answer. Even if the answer hurts. I know my truth, and that is all that really matters.
There are consequences to whatever we do and say, and to whatever we do not do and do not say.
I still have conversations with them. We are going to work it out.
I will make peace. I have to make peace, in order to die in peace, wherever, whenever that may be.
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Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Karin. You are not alone in them. Sometimes I think I know more dead people than living ones… Somehow they keep living inside of me, they became part of who I am.
It seems you learned a lot from your experiences. Your post inspires me to reflect.
Thank you for your thoughts and feedback, Natalia. Yes, we never part fully, but merge and live on in some of those we leave behind.
Take each moment as precious, loving fully all the time. Saying, “I love you” even if your loved one is just going to the store. Say what’s on your heart..even if it may be uncomfortable. This article reminds me to live fully, live well and love completely.
Thank you Evelyn
Yes, making peace with yourself and others is a primary need for us all. Why not make it a goal before we pass on to another realm?
Thank you Rosalind. I agree. One without the other is not possible.
I love your honesty here, Karin. I can imagine that these conversations begin to enter one’s head at a certain time of life, and your decision to not only learn from those conversations but to share them so openly with others–that is incredibly brave. Thank you for your courage.
Thank you for your kind words, Vironika.