I wish that death was a celebration of a life well-lived, instead of the mournful process that it is. Somehow, I wish I could feel joy and gratitude when someone passes, rather than the infinite sadness and loss that is typical. My Great Aunt Shirley passed away on Monday, after a two-year battle with stomach cancer. She was 86 and lived a long, often-hard life.
At 86 years old and as sick as she was, her passing was definitely in the natural order of things and it’s certainly not a tragedy by any means. But she was my last biological link to my maternal grandmother (who died long before I was born) and while my grandfather re-married and his second wife of over 25 years is most certainly my beloved Grandma, Aunt Shirley took on the role of a second grandmother and so this isn’t just the loss of some obscure relative. This hurts.
I’m starting to understand the appeal of religions that tote the belief in an afterlife or reincarnation or some variation thereof. It’s a comforting thought, certainly, only I’m having trouble really, truly buying into it all. I was raised Jewish by way of Buddism, Sufism and Quakerism and therefore, don’t really believe in much of anything other than science and nature. But a part of me wants to believe, so so badly. I find myself wishing that yes, Aunt Shirley is finally reunited with her beloved sister and all those in our family who have already passed on but deep down, I struggle with putting true faith into that idea.
So, instead, I wish that death was a celebration of life. I wish our culture revered death instead of reviled it. Perhaps, instead of being immobilized by the painful finality of loss, we could somehow manage to find beauty and glory in the final journey of our lives.
Until I find a way to do that, I’ll just be sitting here, contemplating the life and times of my dear, crazy Great Aunt Shirley.