Talking to your child about death

You need not worry excessively about what to say. According to one study, children just want to “hear the truth expressed in kind words.”

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Death is often a sore subject and one that adults like to avoid talking about. But because it is inevitable, at some point we are going to have to talk to our children about it.

Sometimes their own curiosity may force us to broach the subject, like when your six-year-old child innocently asks if you’re going to die someday. What would your response be? Would you try to invent something in order to spare them any worry or would you tell them the truth in a way that they would understand? While most parents find it difficult to talk about death and dying with their children, the best way to go is by telling them the truth in a way they best comprehend.

In fact, children do think about death. Some even play games in which someone pretends to die. Therefore, death should not be considered a taboo subject, and you should welcome any questions your child may have about it. By occasionally talking openly about death, you help your child learn how to cope with the loss of a loved one.

Talking about death will not cause your child to have morbid thoughts. Rather, it will help him or her alleviate their fears. However, you may need to correct some misunderstandings. For example, some experts say that many children under the age of six do not view death as final. In their games, a child will be “dead” one moment and “alive” the next.

When they get a little older, however, children begin to grasp the seriousness of death—a fact that may cause them to have questions, concerns, or even fears, especially if a loved one has died. Therefore, it is vital that you discuss the subject. Several mental-health experts believe that a child will develop anxieties related to death if he or she feels that they are not allowed to talk about this subject at home.

Here are some tips to guide you when the subject pops up:

Take advantage of opportunities to talk about death: If your child sees a dead bird on the side of the road or if a beloved pet dies, use simple questions to encourage him to talk. For example, you could ask: “Does a dead animal suffer? Is it cold or hungry? How do you know that an animal or a person is dead?”

Do not hide the truth: When an acquaintance or a relative has died, avoid using confusing euphemisms such as “He has gone away.” Your child might wrongly conclude that the deceased will soon return home. Instead, use simple and direct words. For example, you might say: “When Grandma died, her body stopped working. We can’t talk to her, but we will never forget her.”

Reassure your child: He or she might think that their actions or thoughts caused someone’s death. Instead of just saying that they are not responsible for what happened, you could ask, “What makes you think that it is your fault?” Listen carefully, without belittling their feelings. Also, since a young child might think that death is contagious, assure them that it is not so.

Draw out your child: Talk freely about loved ones who have died, including relatives whom your child has never met. You might evoke fond memories of an aunt, an uncle, or a grandparent and relate amusing anecdotes. When you openly discuss such people, you help your child understand that they need not avoid talking or thinking about them. At the same time, do not force your child to talk. You can always broach the subject later, when you feel the time is right.

You need not worry excessively about what to say. According to one study, children just want to “hear the truth expressed in kind words.” Be assured that a child will usually not ask a question unless he or she is ready to hear the answer.

Complete Article HERE!

Orphaned in adulthood —

“Losing both your parents doesn’t get any easier”

There are painful and sometimes unexpected feelings associated with losing both parents in adulthood.

By Caron Kemp

If it’s possible to have a good death, that’s how I’d describe my mum’s. Within the unlikely surroundings of a quietly attentive intensive care unit, she went peacefully, flanked by her family. It was a mere five months after her cancer diagnosis and none of us believed that the Large B-Cell Lymphoma coursing through her blood, lungs and chest would beat her. But the chemotherapy regime was gruelling, rendering her weak and even more ill at every dose and the final bout of pneumonia proved too much.

I was just 33 and juggling three young children of my own, yet as I sat vigil at her bedside in her final hours, all I wanted was to be scooped up into the arms that once cradled me, to be looked after.

A mummy’s girl to my core, I looked like her, shared many of her quirks and, in her latter years, doted on her as she endured more than her fair share of poor health. Yes, we bickered and, yes, she drove me mad regularly – but my mum was my biggest cheerleader. Even when I failed my driving test over and over again, or felt like I was falling apart at university, she was on hand to remind me of my worth.

Her death hit me hard. However long we’d lived with the realities of hospital visits and hushed conversations, living without her wasn’t an option. The funeral passed in a daze and once everyone else’s world carried on turning, I was left fumbling in the dark for a way to carry on.

Stoic to the end – I’ll never forget the final thumbs-up sign my mum gave as she was put into an induced coma – here was my lead. She never lamented her situation, and neither would I. Her greatest riches in life were her family and I knew all she’d want was for myself and my sister to rally around my dad; her soulmate of more than 35 years, himself bereft and broken-hearted.

“I was left fumbling in the dark for a way to carry on”

So, I poured all my energy into him. I sobbed until I physically hurt, I sought her out in the feathers that landed at my feet, and I got my first tattoo in a big ‘screw you’ to the world. But my dad gave me purpose. Thus, when he was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer exactly two years after my mum died, the cruelty of the situation wasn’t lost on me.

In the seven months that followed, I watched the wisest man I knew become reduced to a shadow of himself; frail, dependant and scared. In the last four weeks – played out from a small, clinical hospital room – life existed in a vacuum, where fear was palpable.

My dad’s death was not a good one. Riddled too with pneumonia and sepsis, I was woken in the middle of the night to news that he’d had a heart attack. He died before we could get to him. It was Mother’s Day.

It was my sister who first helped me try on the title of ‘orphan’ for size. But a fully-fledged adult, juggling a career and motherhood, I felt like the proverbial square peg. Yet here I was, without the greatest anchor in my life, and somehow the shoe began to fit.

Losing both parents is not the same as losing one, twice over. When my dad died, I didn’t just lose him. I lost my identity as someone’s daughter, I lost the family and friends only connected to me through them, and I lost anything standing in the pecking order between me and my own demise.

Plus, without my dad to anaesthetise my pain, I found the wound of my mum’s death finally laid bare too. It was all too much and for weeks I couldn’t muster a tear; numb to the earthquake that had ruptured my world as I knew it.

Life since has been punctuated with plenty of difficult days, but my first birthday without either parent was the toughest yet. However hard it was receiving a card signed solely from my dad, receiving nothing stung so much more. I spent the day at home in my pyjamas, because some things can’t be fixed and at times it’s ok to feel crushed.

Before my dad died, I’d always found camaraderie in others walking a similar path. But this was unchartered territory and it was a very lonely place to be. People tried to empathise. Like the friend of my dad’s – himself in his 70s – who told me he ‘knew exactly how I felt’ having recently lost his second parent. Grief is not a competition, but I can tell you – comparing two completely different experiences hurts.

“There are so many questions that now have no answer and so much I wish I could still weave into our family tapestry”

As someone who struggles with vulnerability, being honest about my feelings is a constant work in progress, yet opening up to the rare few individuals who don’t wipe away my tears, who hear what I say and what I don’t and who share my newfound dark and often inappropriate sense of humour, has been fantastically medicinal.

There are so many questions that now have no answer and so much I wish I could still weave into our family tapestry. But no one leads a perfectly curated life; it’s what we do with our pain that makes the difference.

Losing my parents has been an incalculable, lasting blow, but it’s also been surprisingly freeing. Without anyone to be my guide, I’ve emerged into a new stage of adulthood; finding out who my truest, deepest self is, what serves me well and what really matters. At times it’s been ugly, I’ve been very angry and I’ve lost and found many relationships along the way.

I am also, though, acutely aware of how short and precious life is and I’m more motivated than ever to live mine fully – with my parents’ values and spirit carried with me in my heart.

Complete Article HERE!

Dying in Your Mother’s Arms

A palliative care doctor on finding a “good death” for children in the worst situations.

A palliative care doctor on finding a “good death” for children in the worst situations.

by John Beder

If losing a child to an illness is one of the worst things that can happen to a family, Dr. Nadia Tremonti has made it her mission to make it better.

It’s not easy. But as a pediatric palliative care physician, she works to ensure that terminally ill children receive quality end-of-life care. Palliative care is sometimes misunderstood to shorten life expectancy, but it’s a method that increases quality of life, improves symptom burden and decreases medical costs. We follow Dr. Tremonti in the short documentary above as she works to make death less medical and more human. In the process she asks a critical question: When a child is terminally ill, how can we make the end of life a better one?

Complete Article HERE!

When my 18-year-old son died, no one let me talk about him

By Leia Rosenberg

When doctors tell you that your child has cancer, your world stops.

In January 2015, my then 17-year-old son, Connor, was diagnosed with T-lymphoblastic lymphoma, an aggressive form of non-Hodgkins. At first I went into a state of complete shock and disbelief. All I could do was cry. However, once the medical professionals told us that there was a high chance of the illness being cured, hope set in.

Being a ‘fixer’ by nature I clicked into the best coping mechanism I know – trying to sort out the problem, but of course illness doesn’t work that way. The prognosis was positive and treatment began, in the form of chemotherapy.

At the time, I didn’t notice anything else going on in the world. I have a vague recollection that people were very supportive, with acquaintances coming up to me in the local shop asking ‘How’s Connor doing? We are thinking of you all’ – but that’s it. All I was focused on was getting my boy better.

In September that same year, he was due for routine blood tests, but had come home from the hospital for a few days and was staying at his dad’s. When I went to collect Connor, I arrived to find him nearly unconscious on his bed. He was bleeding out of everywhere, so we drove straight to the hospital.

I was so frightened, my anxiety was in overdrive. I knew something was very wrong, and called his dad, who joined us in the hospital.

That was the day we were told that Connor’s cancer was terminal.

The medical staff took us to one side and said that we didn’t have that long left with him. I was in shock, I couldn’t believe it – it wouldn’t sink in. A small amount of radiation therapy was given nearer the end of his life, but the tumours had grown near vital organs and radiation couldn’t be accurately targeted without causing further damage.

As mums, we are innately driven to protect our children but I couldn’t keep Connor safe or make him better. I felt like I had failed my son.

Less than a year after his diagnosis, in October 2015, when he was just 18 years old, Connor died from his cancer. Days before it happened, he told me that he was only holding on for everyone else – so I told him that it was OK to let go.

His body slowly gave up, and bit by bit his organs started to shut down before he finally took his last breath in front of us. There are no words to fully encapsulate how this feels; how watching the life you gave to someone leave before their time.

I didn’t go out for a long time, I couldn’t walk in a world where everyone else was still carrying on as normal (Picture: Leia Rosenberg)

Partially, I felt relief – Connor had been suffering – but the rest of me was exhausted, broken and numb. Death is difficult for anyone, but when your child dies, the pain is insurmountable.

For the first few weeks, all I could do was sleep. I didn’t go out for a long time, I couldn’t walk in a world where everyone else was still carrying on as normal. And when I did, the well-wishers in the community steered clear of me or stared with pity and concern. 

Old work colleagues who would have usually said hello, crossed the road and avoided eye contact. Others would brave a fleeting ‘I’m so sorry’ and walk off. I tried to go back to work quite soon after Connor had died. I needed a distraction – but I was told to go home, because they didn’t want to deal with me.

A few weeks after his death, family members began to accuse me of being selfish because ‘everyone has problems’ and told me to ‘stop moping around’. Friends, who couldn’t stomach being in my company for more than 10 minutes at a time stopped contact all together. I felt like a leper.

Was I difficult to be around? Absolutely. I’d watched my only son die in front of me. I was sad and depressed, and so angry at the world. I also experienced significant PTSD symptoms of flashbacks, invasive memories, anxiety, vivid recurring dreams and sleeping difficulties – it took years for this to stop.

Perhaps that’s why people started treating me differently or avoided talking about Connor, but all I needed was for them to be there. Sometimes, just sitting in silence is enough. You can’t fix this, and neither can I.

Throughout the pandemic, my personal experience of loss has been at the fore.

When Connor was sick, I was able to be there; holding him, supporting him, taking him home or out for the day. He was allowed visitors and hundreds of people attended his funeral. Coronavirus has changed all of those factors and has left families even more devastated.

Parents can no longer hug their child who may be ill from Covid-19, they cannot comfort them nor receive the physical and emotional support from others in the same way we would have previously. 

The Government needs to invest in charities and agencies that complete the value support work, such as Sue Ryder (and other hospices), Winston Wish and specific therapeutic bereavement support.

Many of these organisations receive very little, if any, finances from the Government – yet they are needed the most, particularly now.

If you know someone who has lost a child, give them time, understanding and patience – grieving can take years to cope with at the best of times. Do not ever stop them talking about their dead children. They would never stop you talking about your living children.

A bereaved parent needs to know that their child’s life mattered, that they won’t be forgotten. I still celebrate Connor’s birthdays and imagine what he would have been like.

There were a handful of people who showed themselves, who did not shy away, who embraced me and my daughter, Connor’s sister, while struggling with their own loss. And, of course, the professionals who allowed me the space to grieve.

I also turned to other avenues, such as running. The gratitude I have for being able to put one foot in front of the other and to be in the great outdoors has been a massive help in moving me through my pain. I have also completed the first year of my master’s degree in applied positive psychology and have found it life-changing.

Above all, my daughter is my inspiration for life – she is an amazing young woman. Our relationship has always been strong but we have been brought closer together since Connor has died.

English language doesn’t have a word for bereaved parents or bereaved siblings, like they do for those who have lost a spouse, or both parents.

It’s almost as if our forefathers made an active choice for us to not talk about the death of a child. Their name, their life, their death becomes a bad word – one that should be left unspoken.

But I will never stop talking about my son. I will keep telling stories about Connor to keep him alive in my heart and mind, forever.

Complete Article HERE!

Goodbye, Grandpa

– An expert guide to talking to kids about death during Covid

By Robyn Silverman

My daughter’s questions started after a family friend got sick with Covid-19.

“If people are sick, they can just give them medicine so they get better, right?” my daughter asked with the hopeful perspective of an 11-year-old. “They can just go to the hospital so the doctors and nurses can help them?”

The questions stemmed from a positive update my husband gave about his martial arts buddy, John R. Cruz, a first responder being treated at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey.

He’s one of the lucky ones.

Not everyone is as fortunate. We’ve already surpassed 124,000 Covid-related deaths in the United States and nearly half a million dead worldwide.

For adults, these numbers are shocking. For children, they are unfathomable. Some can’t even conceptualize the notion of a single death.

It’s natural for parents to want to protect children from the feelings of worry and distress we are experiencing during this pandemic, but decades of research underscores that being honest with children is the best way to mitigate feelings of anxiety and confusion during uncertain times.

Even young kids are aware of the changes in the emotional states of adults and will notice the absence of regular caregivers, including grandparents.

So how do we talk to kids about death and dying during the coronavirus crisis? These are tough talks, no doubt about it. Here are six guiding principles, with sample prompts and scripts, to keep in mind.

Assess what’s age-appropriate

While parents should always be honest about death, the information you divulge may differ in amount and depth depending on the developmental age of your child.

How do you know where your child falls? It’s a best practice to follow your children’s lead and answer their questions without volunteering additional details that may overwhelm them. If you don’t know the answer, it’s OK to admit it.

Children between the ages of 4 and 7 years old believe that death is temporary and reversible, punctuated by the fact that their favorite cartoon characters can meet their doom and then come back the next day for another episode.

Even after you explain that “all living things die” and “death is the end of life,” it’s normal for young children to ask, “When can that person can come back?” Be prepared to remind them, kindly and calmly, that “once a body stops working it can’t be fixed” and “once someone dies, that person can’t return.”

Older children grow out of this “magical thinking” as they enter tweenhood, questioning the meaning of death during adolescence, while often seeing themselves as invulnerable to it. They may want to talk with you about why someone has died and need guidance about which resources they can trust for valid information about coronavirus and Covid-related deaths.

Ask your children, whatever their age: “What have you heard about the coronavirus and how someone might get it? What do you know about what happens when someone gets sick from it?” Clarify the difference between the virus and the disease and explain who is at the highest risk for becoming severely ill from Covid-19.

Prepare yourself

A conversation about death, especially when you are reporting on a family member or close friend, is especially difficult. You don’t want to just blurt out the news without carefully considering your words. Give yourself some time to gather your thoughts and take a couple of deep breaths.

Ask yourself: Do I want another supportive adult with me while I deliver this news? Where in my home would be best to discuss this with my child? Should my child have a special toy or comforting blanket with him or her when we have this conversation?

Even though it’s best to discuss what happened with your child before someone else tells them, taking a few minutes to calm yourself down and be present is important for you and for them.

Explain what happened

If someone in your children’s world does pass away from Covid-19, be sure to tell them honestly, kindly, clearly and simply. Experts agree that parents should avoid euphemisms such as “went to sleep,” “we lost her” or “went to a better place” to avoid confusion.

Instead, you might say; “Sweetheart, remember Grandpa got very sick and has been in the hospital for the last few weeks? His lungs stopped working and couldn’t help Grandpa breathe anymore. The nurses and doctors worked so hard to try to make Grandpa’s body healthy again but they couldn’t make Grandpa better. We are so sad and sorry. Grandpa died today.”

Then pause and listen. You may need to repeat your words a second time as distress can make it difficult to digest information.

Give room for the ups and downs of grief

In a time of suffering, it can be difficult to know what to say. Honesty about your own emotions gives children permission to be open about their own confusion, sadness, anger and fear.

You might admit: “This is all so hard to take in, isn’t it? I am feeling sad, and I’m crying because I miss Grandpa.”

Don’t be surprised if some of your child’s feelings come out all at once, while others may peek out days and weeks after the death of a loved one. Be ready for the unexpected and know that, when children grieve, they may be crying one minute and playing the next. This is normal.

“Grief is not a linear process,” said Joe Primo, CEO of Good Grief, in an interview on my podcast, “How to Talk to Kids about Anything.”

Good Grief is a New Jersey-based nonprofit organization that provides healthy-coping skills to children grieving the loss of a family member.

“Grief is like a roller coaster. It’s up, down, all around. For kids and adults alike, every single day is different. And as the grieving person, you have no idea how your day is going to unfold.”

Answer questions

Many children will ask for more information and want to know why their loved ones didn’t survive. Reiterate that your loved one had Covid-19 and the medical team worked very hard but the disease made it so the body could no longer work. You might tell your child about complications such as asthma that made it difficult to breathe even before the coronavirus.

It is also normal for your child to ask if you or others in their life will get sick or die of Covid-19 so be clear about the precautions your family is taking in order to stave off the illness.

“We are doing everything we can to stay healthy. We are washing our hands with soap and water, keeping our home very clean and staying away from others to keep from getting the virus,” you might say.

“We are also wearing masks and gloves when we are at the store to get groceries. And don’t forget, we are continuing to eat nutritious food, exercise and get good rest to keep ourselves strong.”

Provide ways to commemorate and honor

Given that social distancing is making it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to grieve alongside loved ones as we typically do when someone dies, it’s imperative that we find a way to allow children to say goodbye and remember. Studies have repeatedly found that when children are part of funerals and celebration of life events, they fare better.

“Funerals are about mourning,” Primo noted, “and mourning is a core component of a child adapting to their new norm, expressing their grief, and getting support from their community.” Without these traditional markers, find other ways to honor your loved one.

For example, have a small home-based ceremony and commemorate the person’s life by planting a tree, doing an art project, reading a poem, eulogizing and saying goodbye. You can also collect letters, video tributes and memories from others and share them with your children. Many have used Zoom to remember those who died. Ask your children, “How would you like to honor and remember _______?”

This conversation may be one of the toughest you will have with your kids, and one that, given the numbers, will be part of many families’ reality as we cope with incredible loss from the coronavirus. It’s stressful for everyone involved — for your children and for you, too.

Continue to reach out for the support you need so you and your children can be cared for during this difficult time. Even while we must be socially distant, no one should have to grieve alone.

Complete Article HERE!

When a Grandchild Asks, ‘Are You Going to Die?’

With the coronavirus largely affecting people who are grandparent-aged, it’s a good time to talk with children about death.

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My granddaughter was a few months past 3 years old when she first asked the question, as we sat on the floor playing with blocks.

“Bubbe, are you going to die?”

Nobody is as blunt as a toddler. “Yes, I am going to die one day,” I said, trying to remain matter-of-fact. “But probably not for a very long time, years and years.”

A pardonable exaggeration. Bubbe (Yiddish for grandmother) was 70, but to a kid for whom 20 minutes seemed an eternity, I most likely did have a lengthy life expectancy.

My granddaughter, Bartola (a family nickname, a nod to the former Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon), was beginning to talk about the deceased ladybug she found at preschool. Make-believe games sometimes now featured a death, though a reversible one: If an imagined giant gobbled up a fleeing stuffed panda, he would just spit it out again.

So I wasn’t shocked by what a psychologist would call a developmentally appropriate question. I did mention our conversation to her parents, to be sure they agreed with the way I handled it.

Such questions resurfaced from time to time, even before something she knows as “the virus” closed her school and padlocked the local playground. Though her parents talk about hand-washing and masks in terms of keeping people safe, not preventing death, even preschoolers can pick up on the dread and disruption around them.

Long before the pandemic, it occurred to me that grandparents can play a role in shaping their beloveds’ understanding of death. The first death a child experiences may be a hamster’s, but the first human death is likely to be a grandparent’s.

With tens of thousands of young Americans now experiencing that loss — most coronavirus fatalities occur in people who are grandparent-aged — it makes sense to talk with them about a subject that’s both universal and, in our culture, largely avoided.

Parents will shoulder most of that responsibility, but “grandparents have lived a long time,” said Kia Ferrer, a certified grief counselor in Chicago and a doctoral fellow at the Erikson Institute in Chicago, a graduate school in child development. “They’ve been through historical periods. They’ve lost friends.” We’re well positioned to join this conversation.

But that requires setting aside our own discomfort with the topic when talking to children. “It’s symptomatic of our society that we get nervous about what we tell them and how we’ll react,” said Susan Bluck, a developmental psychologist at the University of Florida who teaches courses on death and dying.

“But if they’re asking questions, they want to know,” she added. If we shy away, thinking a 4-year-old can’t handle the subject, “the child is learning that it’s a bad thing to ask about.”

We want kids to understand three somewhat abstract concepts, Dr. Bluck explained: that death is irreversible, that it renders living things nonfunctional, that it is universal.

We don’t need to prepare a lecture. “Only answer what they’re asking and then shut up,” advised Donna Schuurman, former executive director of The Dougy Center in Portland, Ore., which works with grieving children. “Listen for what they’re thinking. Let them digest it. The next response might be, ‘OK, let’s go play.’”

What and how much our beloveds understand depends on their ages and development, of course. Kids Bartola’s age will have trouble grasping ideas like finality.

They also tend to be awfully literal: My daughter, who knew better but spoke in the moment, once explained the Jewish custom of sitting shiva by saying that the family was going to keep their sad friend company because she had lost her father. “She lost him?” Bartola said wonderingly. “Did he blow away?” Oops, take two.

But 5- to 7-year-olds can think more abstractly. “That’s when they start understanding the cycle of life and the universality of death,” Ms. Ferrer said. And kids 8 to 12 “have an adultlike understanding,” she said, and may want to know about specifics like morgues and funeral rites.

What each age requires of us, experts say, is honesty. Euphemisms about grandpa taking a long trip, being asleep or going to a better place, create confusion. If someone died of illness, Ms. Schuurman advises naming it — “she got a sickness called kidney failure” — because kids get sick too, and we don’t want them thinking every ailment could be fatal.

Ms. Ferrer talks about a loved one’s body not working anymore, and medicine not being able to fix it. Even kindergartners know about toys that no longer work and can’t be repaired.

Nature can be helpful here. On walks, I’ve started pointing out to Bartola the flowers that bloom and then die, the leaves changing color and falling. A lifeless bird in the driveway presents an opportunity to talk about how it can’t sing or fly anymore.

Ms. Schuurman endorses small ceremonies for dead creatures. Wrap the bug or bird in a handkerchief or put it in a box; say a few words and bury it. “Let’s honor this little life,” she said. “It sets an example of reverence for life.”

Psychologists favor allowing children to attend the funerals of beloved humans, too, with proper preparation. In some families, religious beliefs will inform the way adults answer children’s questions.

The professionals I spoke with suggested some material to help grandparents with this delicate task. Ms. Ferrer is a fan of Mr. Rogers’s 1970 episode on the death of a goldfish and the 1983 “Sesame Street” episode in which Big Bird comes to understand that Mr. Hooper isn’t ever coming back.

Complete Article HERE!

How Dying Taught Me to Live

By Brad Dell 

His little ribs rose, then fell, then rose, then fell, then stayed still. The spark left his green, curious eyes — I swear it wasn’t a trick of the light. They were dull … dead.

I loathed myself for letting my first cat be put to sleep without me by her side. I swore I’d be there for my second when he passed less than a year later. I swore I’d look him in the eye, even if it meant nothing to him. And so I did.

The odd thing was that he wasn’t afraid. He was calm. He’d spent a good life of hunting, cuddling, and lounging. He knew his place in nature’s cycle. I didn’t understand that. Not then.

But my time came.

Sepsis destroyed me. As my soul ripped loose from my bones, I gasped to my girlfriend that I loved her but I would soon need to die. Then I pissed the bed. I realized that dying isn’t romantic like in the movies. I stank from rolling around in a soiled, sweaty bed, and my voice was hoarse from begging for an end.

While death isn’t romantic, it can be peaceful. In my time, I’ve known many who have passed — they’re either ready or they’re not. I wasn’t yet ready. I was ugly and bitter in my death, outraged by the unfairness of this world.

Somehow, I survived.

The paradox of death is that it teaches you how to live. The tragedy of death is not everyone gets a chance to apply what they’ve learned.

I woke up in an unfamiliar world. All details seemed illuminated and emotions felt overwhelmingly potent. I cried a lot more, hugged a lot more, prayed a lot more, loved a lot more.

Former priorities fell away; ambition, money, and comfort lost their gleam. Each day during recovery, I composed an obituary in my head: “Boy dies of cystic fibrosis. He had caustic humor, good grades, and a decent savings account.” I craved depth and vowed to thrive with passion and weave a legacy of compassion.

Did my old friend know I’m sorry for calling him fat in fifth grade? Did my sister know I look up to her? Did my parents know I regret every single time I lashed out at them? Did everyone know that I mostly only pretended to love, yet always yearned to learn its power?

I lay in my soiled bed and tried recalling instances in which I’d helped people out of love rather than for the potential of a self-serving debt. I sobbed at the realization that I’d lost myself long, long ago. In prayer, I begged for redemption, for help with becoming the Brad I was designed to be.

It’s been 47 months since that prayer. I’m nowhere close to perfect, but I’m far from who I was. Today, my joy comes from expressions of vulnerability, wide smiles and belly laughs, the bonds forged through struggle, the light in people’s eyes, the warmth of another body, the tears poured in prayers, the little acts of love and the big acts of love, the feet that tap along to music, the winding conversations over meals, the exhilaration of adventure, the richness of sharing nature and sunsets with strangers.

I am ready to die, when that time comes again, though I’d love to learn even more about life with a third pass. Death is liberating, driving me to be fully present and live intentionally for the things that truly matter.

Like my old cat, I know my place in nature’s cycle. Mine is to love and be loved in return. Maybe that seems sappy to those who haven’t yet died. But one day you’ll understand, too.

Complete Article HERE!