It’s hard to really live until we come to terms with death. Many people spend their entire life running from it, but one way or another the conversation will be had. If you had five minutes left to live, who would you call and what would you say to them?

Because none of us know whether we have fives minutes or five days or fifty years left on our clock, it’s a good idea to regularly treat our loved ones as if we knew our passing was close at hand.

If you’re not someone who has seriously thought about death, reading Joan Marans Dim’s ‘A Decade of Goodbye,’ will likely prompt you to do so.

Here is just an excerpt from ‘A Decade of Goodbye,’ but I suggest reading the entire piece.

He has never let me tend to his most personal needs, but today he willingly sits on the corner of our bed as I help him disrobe. His entire body is jaundiced. I soap a sponge, gather towels and wash him. The moment is intimate, a rarity for us. I massage his back, chest, arms and legs with moisturizer.

“That feels so good,” he murmurs.

Joan Didion never had such a moment, I think.

I dress him, and he asks for his walker. But I am not finished. I want to comb his hair. In 52 years of marriage, I have never combed his hair.

“O.K.,” he says. And smiles.

I am meticulous in this act of grooming. Then I step back and study him.

“You look handsome,” I say, and mean it.

Beautiful. It’s hard to read such passages without trying to fast forward life in your own mind to try and see how your own final moments will play out with family, friends and loved ones.

As I read ‘A Decade of Goodbye’ I couldn’t help but think of Pearl Jam’s newest single, Sirens: “It’s a fragile thing, this life we live.”

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

4 comments

    1. Wow. Thank you for taking the time to comment here. Your piece was incredibly moving, and it will no doubt help countless individuals better navigate life’s many twists and turns. More importantly, it makes the reader realize that we should never take life or our loved ones for granted. It sounds like common sense, but I think as we dash from here to there we often lose track of what’s truly important.

      Thanks again.

  1. Yes you did a beautiful commentary Douglas.. The Bible calls death an Enemy and references it’s sting. There is nothing so painful then to loose a loved one. Perhaps a reason we do keep so busy trying to avoid the eventuality of it or fit more life In as it seems, maybe out run it even.

    1. I’ve always kind of thought of death just like any other obsession. When you obsess over or fear something, you give it control over your life. I acknowledge and respect death’s power over my physical body — I know that it can come at any time — but I refuse to become a slave to it. When it comes, it comes. Until then, I’m going to live each day to the fullest.

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