The title is a quote from my aunt, who is recovering from surgery for an aggressive, cancerous brain tumor. She has been told she has about a year to live. Damn cancer strikes again.
My cousin, her daughter, posted this sentiment on a blog her family is writing to keep our large and widespread family up to date on my aunt's progress. (I have 20 first cousins, and we're all pretty close) My cousin was, understandably, reluctant to share the idea, but I think I know what my aunt means. Death is a logical end for all of us. My Daddy used to say "ain't none of us getting out of this alive!" Every human being knows this at some level, but most of us never think about it. We can't. We would become obsessed with the idea that death could be around any corner, at any time. However, my aunt lost her husband - ironically to an aggressive brain tumor - when she was 44. He was in his late 50s, I think. I'm sorry to say I don't remember my uncle's exact age when he died. I was 18 and as self-absorbed as most 18-year-olds tend to be. I do know he died shortly after Christmas, 1980, and that the whole immediate family was there with him. In the same way that I was with my husband when he died. My aunt and I share that bond. We were both in our 40s when we lost our husbands, we had been married less than 20 years at the time, and both our husbands died of cancer.
Watching a loved one die, helping them through their last days, helping them prepare for death, preparing for their death, changes how a person looks at life. Not only while the loved one is still with us, but forever after. I take life less for granted now. I put up with less garbage. I am more aware of love. I am less impatient - most of the time. Except, perhaps, when I'm driving in Boston, but that's another realm of existence, really. I treasure connections more. I always valued my family, and I feel that even more strongly now. I make time to have conversations without hurrying through them. I simply try to experience life more deeply, because I feel strongly how fragile it can be.
I think that's what my aunt means. Death comes after life. It's safe, because it's expected, eventually. None of us want to dwell on that thought - it would be unhealthy to dwell on it too much, I think. We can, however, be aware of our eventual end, and treasure what we have now, knowing it may be gone, sometimes sooner than we think it will be. So, death is safe. Life is precious. Value both as part of the process, and go hug someone. Preferably someone you know. If it's a stranger, you'll have a whole new set of problems. Just sayin'.