Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The thought I thought I'd never think

I'm talking about death. Its that one taboo thought you never want to touch; the mental preparation for someone's death. It truly is the one thing you hope you never have to think about.

But I've been there. I've envisioned being at my sister's funeral, crumpled in a ball of unconsolable tears. Her "good" friends around, wondering how this happened, how it ended this way. My parents in that gut-wrenching grief I saw on Jeremy's friend's face when he lost his little girl. Its anguish of the purest, most painful form. Your kids are forever your kids, and you as the parent are supposed to go first. Its the natural order. And what about my kids? How would I tell them that their auntie, whom they love so much, and is so incredibly fun, is no longer going to be a part of their lives? Especially when I wouldn't even be able to explain it to myself. And where would she die? Would she be alone? Would she be hurt? Would she be in pain? Would she be scared? How could I stop it? What could I say or do to rescue her from the fate of the hand she dealt herself? ....And on and on my mind would race, sometimes for hours. I would envision, and cry, and hurt.

I think part of the problem is that I have this "thing" about death to begin with. I have always been afraid of death. Not the actual passing over, but of what's left; cemeteries, headstones, caskets, funerals, sad people, the mourning, the loss, the emptiness. Its just cold and creepy and I hate it. It makes my skin crawl almost as bad as snakes do.

But as I hate to think about death, I had to. I had to think the thoughts I thought I would never have to think. I had to mentally deal with my own demons (so to speak); those things like caskets, corpses, and funerals, that sincerely terrify me. I had to push past the fear and actually construct a game plan for dealing with my sister's death, because at times it seemed inevitable.

Its a horrible, humbling, sickening reality when you get to the point you have to think about these things; when you know you have to hope for the best, but be truly prepared for the worst. To have to strengthen your inner self to try and accept what you feel is the "end of the line" for someone you love more than anything in this world....frankly, its awful.

I hate it when people can't accept that addiction is a disease and not a choice. Yes, choices started the ball rolling in that hellish direction, but addiction is like cancer. It gets in there, it eats the addict and everyone around them like a hard-to-cure, "crapshoot"-type disease. It makes you do something I have coined "pre-grieving."

When my grandfather had his heart attack in '94 and landed in the LDS hospital in Salt Lake City, we were told he had a 2% chance of living to get out of the hospital. We pre-grieved. He wasn't dead yet, but 2%? Come on. Who were we to think he would beat a 2% odd? So we huddled together and cried and cried. We said our goodbyes, then flew home to await the inevitable news. But amazingly, he beat those odds and did come home. But it was a rocky road for the next 7 years. We pre-grieved over and over again. When the call came that he had finally passed on, I didn't shed a tear. (And I am a crier! Anyone who knows me even a little bit can attest to that.) I had grieved all my grief before he passed. I was prepared, and I had no grieving left to do, as odd as that may sound. In fact, I didn't cry until 2 months later at his funeral, when his box of ashes were being lowered into the ground next to my Nana's headstone. And they were mostly happy tears because he was finally with Nana again, and I knew how happy that would make him. I miss my Gramps all the time, but I rarely cry over his death. I left nothing unsaid or undone with him, and I did all my grieving years ago. I was prepared.

My point is, I think its perfectly normal and natural, when faced with the reality of death, to prepare and pre-grieve, to try and lessen the pain when the inevitable happens. And while my sister is now clean and sober, I will forever have my "grief plan" in the back of my mind, "just in case."

I hate that I have had to think these unthinkable thoughts, and my heart aches for anyone else ever put in thise position. Its horrible. Its painful. And the mere fact I have already grieved the loss of my sister, while she is still alive, is sobering and somewhat tragic. Hopefully the thoughts will lessen and fade as I begin to trust in her life again. That is my sincere hope and prayer, because if I can't let go of the grief and rejoice in her life, then she's already gone. And I can't let that happen.

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