In a recent conversation with a friend, she told me how Dale’s death and the death of another friend’s spouse had caused her and her husband to take a serious look at what lie ahead for them. They are understanding more and more the inevitability that ONE of them will be grieving the loss of the other. And they were preparing themselves for that sad day, sometime in the future.
I found myself in a similar frame of mind in the weeks before Dale passed away. I could clearly see that he was declining both physically and mentally. And given the fact that no one in his immediate family had lived longer than age 81 (he was 80 at the time), I didn’t have many illusions about a long life ahead for him.
In fact, we had a conversation just a few weeks before he died where I told him, “I’m preparing to lose you sometime in the next year.” How crazy is that? But it was absolutely my thinking at the time and there was no one I shared more of my thoughts or hopes…or fears with more than I did with Dale. So, it made sense that I would share this as well.
He was not offended by it and took it in the spirit it was intended – I wanted him to know that I was working on how I could make it through this great loss that was likely not far out on the horizon. It led to a discussion confirming that he was ready to go, and he knew he was going to heaven. I think we both took great comfort in the whole conversation.
Then, long before that magic “preparation” year had passed, that fateful Monday morning in October arrived and answered, for me, the title question. Can you really prepare to lose a loved one? My answer. You. Can. Not.
No amount of mental preparation equipped me for the onslaught of emotions that hit me from the second I heard the words, “He passed” up to today when I still grieve this loss so very deeply.
Oh sure, you might be able to take some of the “surprise” factor out of the equation. And certainly you can and should do the legal preparation for someone’s death. Have the will or trust, power of attorney (medical and financial), and living will document in place so you don’t have the added stresses of dealing with those issues. You can even go so far as, like Dale and I did, planning and paying for your funeral ahead of time. All good things that I highly recommend.
But was I emotionally prepared for Dale’s death? Absolutely not. If you’ve been following along with any of my previous posts, you know how deep this pain still is, and how long it is likely to last. In some manner, forever.
No amount of planning or preparation on my part gave me any kind of “head start” in the grieving process. It is what it is, and you have to work through it one painful day at a time.
So, do I have any words of encouragement for you, my readers? I absolutely do! Say and do the things TODAY that your heart, or the Holy Spirit, is telling you to. Make the apologies that are due. Say the “I love yous” that someone needs to hear. Mend a broken fence. Forgive. Reach out. Encourage. Witness to. Spend time with. The possibilities are truly limitless and will pay off in huge rewards.
Anything that could become a regret with a loved one’s loss can be turned into a precious memory if you act upon it now.
About the same time that Dale and I had the “preparing to lose you” conversation, we had another one that is even more comforting to me. I’ve written about it before, but it’s worth repeating.
I asked Dale to forgive me for the times that I wasn’t as patient as I should have been – especially during the difficult dementia days. To which he replied, “I already have.” How powerful…and comforting is that??!! It speaks volumes about the man he was, and why he was so very loved by so many. And it’s just a small piece of what I miss so much.
My challenge to you – ask God to lay on your heart the areas or relationships that need mending, or encouragement. And then resolve to act. If you feel extra brave, or vulnerable, I’d love for you to share your resolution in the comment section.
I will be praying for an open heart and for boldness to step out in faith! And for the rewards of your obedience to bless you for years to come!
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18 (ESV)
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)