Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote in his best selling book When Bad Things Happen to Good People that bad things happen to good and bad people alike – and good things often happen to bad people. I knew before Roy died that life was not fair, but my personal relationship to this statement took on a whole different meaning in the wake of his death. I have learned from Roy’s sudden death and disappearance from my life that death frequently arrives with little time to prepare. I know at a very deep level that it is better to be as complete as possible with the people in my life because I don’t know when I will die or for that matter when they will die. My relationship to my personal death is very different now. I am not so afraid anymore – I lived through the dark journey to the underworld and came back up to the world of the living with a refreshed and renewed sense of what it means to be alive. To be alive means that I am breathing, feeling, thinking, loving, caring, hating, disliking, enjoying, feeling bored, and delighting in the ever present curiosity of what’s next in my life. I don’t spend near as much time feeling frightened of the uncertainty that is coupled with my unfolding future – I merely remember the load of bricks that was thrown on my shoulders in July 2011. As best as I can, I shake off the current shards of fear that attempt to prick me at any given time of the day. Yes I live with anxiety every day. I fear getting close to another man because I think of what it would be like if he were to die suddenly like Roy or like my father who died when I was four years old. I woke up the day after my father’s death to the reality that I would never see him again. That was a lot for a little four year old to take on – to live with the reality that “Daddy is never coming home again”. The trauma of my father’s death has accompanied me throughout my life – and was reactivated with Roy’s death. How could I lose the two most important men in my life to sudden death? Well, life is not fair. Bad things happen to good people. Roy was a fantastic man – he took care of himself, ate healthfully, took supplements, knew more than most medical professionals about how the body works. And boom – sudden cardiac arrest. Gone. Forever. He was a good person and he was taken out of the game before he was ready. Meanwhile bad people continue to take up space, create havoc, and give little back to our society. Go figure.
I believe that it is imperative that the reality of death needs to sit on our left shoulder 24-7 like a squawking black raven. This raven serves as an unrelenting reminder that we need to seize the moments of our lives with gusto and perseverance. If someone you love died recently or years ago and you have not adequately grieved the loss, the pain of the death will rob you of life, joy, and hope for the future. You must do the foot work of grief. It is painful, hard, and lonely … and people have been doing it since the beginning of time. Irish poet John O’Donohue states in his poem For Grief that when you lose someone you love, your life becomes strange. Yes indeed it does. However, at the end of the crippling journey of grief there is a moment when you realize you have finished the hardest part of the journey back to life. You notice that spring is back, that the air smells delicious, and that people are commenting that they notice a sparkle in your eye again. It is a heavy price to pay for recognizing that life is incredible. But this recognition is awaiting each of us when grief has been completed. I encourage you to grab it when it arrives and don’t let go. You deserve to feel that incredible sense of being alive … again.