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Archive for the ‘Death’ Category

Question mark

There are questions in life that you will be hard pressed to ever find an answer to that will be definitive and beyond dispute.

One of the questions to which I am referring is actually not about life but rather it is death. Death, the 5 letter word that has so many different meanings, fears, unknowns and questions attached to it.

Death is something that is dealt with differently by each and every person. It is dependent on your religious beliefs, your upbringing, your life experiences and whether or not you believe that there is more to the world than what we can see, hear or feel.

For me death and the questions surrounding it have followed me around most of my adult life. I don’t know for sure when my questions and fears started. I do know that aside from one friend of my parents who passed away when I was a teen, I did not come into contact with death of people I knew or loved until I was in my twenties.

I do however quite vividly remember a bible class in tenth grade about heaven and hell. The explanation we were given then about hell has stuck with me since then. I was taught that hell is basically the soul’s yearning to rejoin God, but the more sins you have the farther away your soul is from God for a period of time until you have paid your dues so to say. The teacher likened it to an avid baseball fan who really wants to sit right behind home plate during a game but instead is stuck in the last row of seats high up in the bleachers.

For some reason that description has scared me more than fiery pits.

Embrace Death

Over the years I have had many sleepless nights worrying about death. Almost to the point of panic attacks at night when all is quiet and I am trying to fall asleep. Thankfully I think I have put most of that to rest.

I have spent countless hours discussing death, learning about death and learning how to accept and cope with death. I have also been present at numerous deaths. Over the years there have been times when I felt that people were waiting for my shift at the ER to come and pass away. Something that in some ways pleased me but also scared me at the same time. I felt that the people’s souls who passed away wanted me to be there for their loved ones at that particular moment. It’s odd to describe, but that’s what I felt.

I know that I have a purpose here in this world. I know that I have things to accomplish and things my soul has come here to learn. I believe one of the things I have come to do either for myself or maybe to also help others with is to learn about death, how to cope with it and to search for answers about what there is after our body is no longer.

My problem is that I am a very concrete person. I need proof. I need unequivocal proof. But maybe that is meant to be part of my journey as well. To learn to feel things and believe what I know in my heart is true, whether I can explain it or not.

I believe in reincarnation. Some in my religion believe in reincarnation, while others do not. That is also something that took me a long time to come to grips with. The not knowing for sure if I was going against my religion by believing in things my heart was telling me was true. Even writing about it now on a blog where I know people who know me will read it made me hesitate a minute. Not because I think I am wrong in what I believe, but rather because do I want to possibly be looked upon as someone who has lost my mind. I haven’t, so I am writing this.

Maybe some of my fear of death comes from the way I have died in previous lives. I was told that in one of my previous lives about 100 years or so ago I died from cold exposure. Not an easy death. Maybe that is part of my issue in this life trying to understand and embrace the fact that life is but a short blip in our total existence.

I do have to say that knowing that I have previously died horribly and look I am here again has given me some strength. It’s kind of like, hey I’ve done it before, it can’t be that bad. Wierd I guess, but still it does give me a small measure of comfort.

So what do I believe? Believe but can’t prove. I believe that our life here on earth is only a small tiny part of our total existence. I believe that hell is our reviewing of our life after we die and seeing and understanding all the hurt we have caused other people.

I believe that how we view death and the after life will have a lot of impact on our soul right after we pass away. About how confused we are or how comfortably we glide into our new existence.

I mostly believe that we are here on this earth to accomplish things our soul planned for us to do. If you take the time to listen to your body and your soul, you will be put on the path that your soul planned for you to take. We just need to listen and to use the gifts we were given. We need to never give up hope because everything we do our soul learns from and we take with us.

Image:

QUESTION MARK
© Marco Bellucci | Flickr Creative Commons

EMBRACE DEATH
© Oisin Mulvihill | Flickr Creative Commons

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This blog post was written for writing workshop #19 run by Josie at Sleep is for the Weak. I chose the third prompt: Write a story or a poem or something descriptive to try and share your view of what happens when we die.

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As parents sometimes we just want to shield our kids from some painful truths that they don’t have to know. I am not saying to lie to them. I am just saying they don’t need to know the whole truth.

A case in point is little N and the goldfish that was hoisted unwittingly and unwanted upon us from her nursery.

To say that I am not a fan of pets is an understatement. Even so, I am not a completely evil mom so once many years ago, after my kids begged pitifully I broke down and we bought a bowl with goldfish. Let me just say that the poor fish did not survive too long.

Since then no pets have graced our household unless you count the occasional ants, spiders and the one huge scorpion. (The scorpion is a frightening early morning tale for another day.)

Honestly, why do my kids need a pet anyways? We only have a million neighbors with dogs. All of whom really like to bark and poo, mostly on my lawn it would seem.

So imagine my dismay when one morning my husband comes home from bringing little N to the nursery holding a plastic bag filled with water and in it a goldfish.

“What the heck is that?” I asked.
“It’s a goldfish, can’t you see?” He answered.

“Yeeeesss. I know it is a goldfish, but what exactly am I supposed to be doing with it?”
“You need to find a bowl for it.”

“Uh Uh! I don’t think so!”
“Well N’s nursery teacher wouldn’t let me refuse it. Seems they had given them out yesterday and N forgot hers.”

“Thank goodness she forgot yesterday but what am I supposed to do with it now?”
“I guess you are going to have to find a bowl.”

And with that Hubby hurried off to work with too much of a smirk on his face and left me to deal with the poor goldfish.

I was already breaking into a sweat worrying how disappointed N was going to be when the goldfish went missing if I got rid of it. And if I managed to keep it alive till she got home, where the heck was I going to get a bowl from?

Then suddenly I had a genius idea. I have friends who live a few blocks away and they have a goldfish pond in their backyard. Why not free the goldfish and let it live with others of its own kind. In nature!

I exchanged a few quick text messages with our friend who agreed to offer our fish a new home although he was not sure whether the fish would be an addition to their pond or dinner for the other bigger goldfish. That nagged at my conscience for about 2 seconds. It was short lived because I consoled myself saying better that the fish should serve some purpose rather than just get flushed down the toilet in a few days from now.

So I waited until little N got home from nursery. I got her all excited about going over to my friend’s house and bringing her fish to their pond. And we went with her clutching the little bag with the fish. She helped me put plop ease the fish into the pond. Thankfully at that point it was already getting dark so we never did learn the fate of Mr. Goldfish.

Just as well really, because sometimes kids just don’t need to know the whole truth. There is plenty of time in life for that. Better that when we are over at our friends’ house and N peers into the pond that she thinks her fish got so big. I like to think the same as well.

Have you ever kept the whole truth from your kids?

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This post was my response to a meme tag by Vicki at Vegemitevix. Take the tenth photo in your pictures’ folder and write about the photo’s story. (The photo of N with the bag full of goldfish). So although the photo is grainy because it was a download from my cell, it still thankfully had a story to tell. Thanks Vicki for tagging me and inspiring this post.

Now I would like to tag:

*Lori at Lwayswright’s Weblog

*Nappy Valley Girl

*Rachel At Really Rachel

*Not Such A Yummy Mummy (BTW-I disagree with her on that title. She is Yummy!)

*Not Drowning, Mothering

*Naomi At Organic Motherhood With Cool Whip

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Writing.
(Photo courtesy of Caitlin Regan )

We always think there is going to be time to ask questions, time to hear answers. Somehow we don’t seem to make the time to delve a bit more deeply into our parents’ and grandparents’ childhood, youth and adulthood, all those years before we met them.

We always think there will be time for questions. We think that until we realize there is no more time. We think there will be time until someone is abruptly taken from us, or until their memory is slowly robbed by dementia.

My 18 year old son is leaving in a few days on a trip to Poland called March of the Living. It is an educational trip for Jewish youth to teach them about their heritage and about the horrors that occurred in the Holocaust up close by visiting the concentration camps.

As part of the preparation for the trip, the youth are encouraged to ask their relatives who lived through the Holocaust about their experiences. I specifically invited my grandmother for the Sabbath this weekend so that we would have an opportunity to talk to her about her experiences in the concentration camp.

It was not easy asking her questions. Not so much because of the emotions (which did surprise me), but because there was so much she didn’t remember or that she was confused about. As we were sitting at the Sabbath table at lunch I started asking questions. She could not remember. When I asked her the same question a few minutes later, she would give me the answer. I had my 18 year old a bit confused because I asked the same question over and over and he did not understand why I kept repeating myself.

My grandmother ended up recalling the line ups early every morning no matter what the weather. She told us about her mother being yanked away from her and never seeing her ever again. She told us about the Russian with the big curly moustache who liberated them and told them the war was over and they were free. We learned that she had been in Birkenau not Auschwitz like we had thought. She told us that those two camps were one next to another.

So we learned some, but it was evident to me about how much of her history we would never know, how much is lost in her memory and how much information would die with her. As a child I remember doing a report about my grandparents. I am upset I didn’t redo it again as an adult. A few years ago I tried going through my grandmother’s albums with her because there where many people I didn’t recognize. By the time I asked it was really too late. She didn’t know to tell me about many of the pictures.

Through my blogging I have started writing about my experiences these days. I am now thinking that I should sit down and write an autobiography of sorts. Something that my kids can read when they are older and have questions. As an ER nurse I am all too aware of the fact that you never know when your time will be up. How many times have I heard relatives wail over the death of a family member and say “But she was just on her way to work.”

What I want everyone to do is to remember there isn’t always time. Take the time now to ask your parents and grandparents lots of question. Videotape them, write about their experiences, ask them about the old photos in their albums.

Your parents and grandparents are part of your heritage. In Judaism there is a saying that says:
“The deeds of our ancestors are a model for future generations.”
I think that holds true for everyone. There is much to be learned from our parents and grandparents. From their trials, successes and even mistakes. We just have to remember to ask for the information before it is too late. Hopefully you will even be lucky and still have decades to learn and experience even more with your parents and grandparents. That would be an added bonus.

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P.S. This was not meant to be a depressing sad post. It was just to make us realize that some things should just not be pushed off.

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Biggest fear.
(Photo courtesy of Christopher Matson )

At some point or another some form of fear is present in everyone’s life. We all have fears, some rational and some irrational.

Some people suffer from extreme phobias while others are almost never afraid. Some people have one specific fear that follows them throughout their life. Others have changing or alternating fears.

One thing is for certain. If you suffer from a certain fear, ignoring it won’t make it go away. You may be able to repress it for a while, but unless you confront your fear and deal with it, it will, without a doubt resurface. It may even resurface with a vengeance and be more debilitating.

I definitely don’t have all the answers but I do believe that the type of fear you suffer from and how you cope with it can help you gain a lot of insight about yourself. It is hard, but in order to learn something important about ourselves we have to learn how to get past the discomfort of thinking and dealing with the things we dread the most.

I have had quite a few fears over the years. The ones that I can say have truly been the most traumatic are the fear of death and the fear of dogs. Being afraid of dogs sounds a bit insignificant compared to a fear of death. (That is unless they are one and the same and you are afraid of meeting your death by a dog, which is not my case.) Yet before I learned to cope and deal with them, when I suffered from these fears they were both equally overpowering.

Warning Signs on the Road ahead!
(Photo courtesy of Thunderchild )

My fear of dogs used to be one accompanied by sheer terror. Maybe this fear of dogs stemmed from my mother abandoning me in my carriage as a baby to flee a dog herself. Or maybe it was just a behaviour I absorbed and learned from her own fear. Either way my reaction when faced with a dog was to run away and if I am honest to scream quite a bit too.

When I was in high school the school bus used to drop me off at the corner of my block. My house was not far from the stop, only four houses down. One evening as I was walking the “long” walk home from the corner in the dark I hear the jangle of a dog’s collar. I walked faster and the jangling got faster. I was petrified.

I got to the door of my house and started banging on the door like a madman. My mother seemed to be taking her time and in my panic I started knocking on one of the green glass panes next to the door.
Well I was so scared that my fist went right through the window and shattered glass flew everywhere. I finally got into the house and when I had calmed down, I realized that the jangling dog’s collar was in reality the zipper from my backpack. Pathetic!

Fast forward twenty years. The once broken window by the front door of my parents’ house still has a different colored glass and my older daughter has inherited (or learned) my fear of dogs. It was only when I realized and internalized that my own behavior was a big contributing factor in my daughter’s fear of dogs that I was able to will myself into dealing with it.

It has also helped that my brother in law has almost always had a dog and was devoted in his attempts to get us used to dogs. I can proudly say that both my daughter and I are dramatically improved. We are both able to be in the same room with dogs and not freak out. We are even able to pet dogs occasionally. All it took was really looking at why we were afraid, acknowledging it and just jumping in, being exposed to our source of the fear and trying to change the behavior. It was not overnight but it has changed.

death as type
(Photo courtesy of Gabi Agu )

My fear of death on the other hand has been a slower journey and like most people with this fear, I am not sure I will ever be 100% cured. It has been a journey spanning decades and one that has been spent searching for answers. It has involved learning about myself, about death about religion and about life. It has taken me to explore things in a way very different to the way I grew up. It has pushed me many times out of my comfort zone in order for me to explore new thoughts, ideas and ways of viewing things.

I find it very interesting that it seems that when I have a topic in my head that I am thinking or writing about, invariably another friend of mine will mention the same topic. I had written most of this post yesterday and when I logged on today, I noticed that two of my blogging friends have written posts today about death. (See Heather’s Post and Vicki’s Post) Obviously death and fear of death is not something I am facing alone.

I think part of my problem is that I am person who likes to be in control. (That sounds much better than calling myself a controlling person.) My world has always been tainted by a perception of the world as being black or white. I need to be certain of things. I need to know with certainty how things work and how they run.

It is kind of hard to be certain about what happens after death. Sure there have been many tales of near death or clinical death experiences and peoples’ tales of what they saw. I find them very enlightening, but God hasn’t told me yet for sure that those stories are true. So I can’t be sure they are correct.

Being a religious and believing person does help somewhat because I am sure there is an afterlife. On the other hand, I am sure that some of what I learned growing up about heaven and hell is at least partially responsible for my fear of death. Although I am sure there is an afterlife, as a person who likes to be in control and sure of her facts, that is still a bit vague for me.

Years ago there were times that my fear of death would “pop up” and cause me tremendous anxiety even to the point of insomnia and anxiety attacks. Thank goodness I have never really experienced a terrible panic attack, but I was close enough to know that it must be terrifying.

I have also come to realize that as I had kids and in a way had more to lose from dying, my fear got worse. The more you learn to love and accept love from those around you, it is harder to think about leaving them for something that is really an uncertainty.

I remember years ago the day my husband an I drew up our will (which by the way is something every parent should have). I have to say that it was one of the worst days of my life. I was meeting my husband by the lawyer’s office and the whole drive over there I was blubbering like a little baby. The crying and the emotions bought to the surface my own fears about my mortality. And of course death and what happens after death.

For me personally I have been helped by reading many books, consulting with a few Rabbis, talking about death and yes even speaking to mediums about it. Some of my greatest calm and understanding and even partial acceptance of death and the unknown has been born from this process.

As a nurse I have been present at many deaths. Years ago it was something that left me deeply saddened and uncomfortable, even when it was a person who had lived a long life. As the years have passed I started believing that there were times when people who were dying were waiting for my shift for a reason. Kind of a hard thing to explain, but there were quite a few deaths where I was sure that I was there for a reason. Whether it was for the family or for the patient himself. I am one of the few ER nurses who talks to patients who are unconscious and not “with it”. I sometimes get laughed at about it, sometimes praised for it. Either way, I believe the person’s soul can hear me and I aim to treat everyone with respect.

The more comfortable I have grown with acknowledging and accepting my fear of death, the easier it has been for me to accept death in general. Of course I am saddened and I cry and I miss people and feel their void in my life. That is a given. However along with that I am beginning to also come to peace with the fact that death is not the end and in the scheme of things it may only be a very small part of our total existence.

The thing to me that is most important is to acknowledge your feelings and your fears, whatever they may be. Don’t keep them to yourself. Discuss them with people you trust. Learn all you can about your fears and ways to deal with them and control them so that they don’t take over your life. By delving into your fears you are really just learning more about yourself.

So what fears trouble you or debilitate you the most and how have you dealt with them?

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