Thursday, March 06, 2008

Fear and loss

A woman from my grad school died on Monday. She died from a brain aneurysm. Her name was Allyson and she was days away from turning 34. I didn't know Allyson, as she graduated several years after I did, yet I am deeply affected by her death. Especially by the way she died. Would I feel differently if she had died from a car crash or from an illness? I don't know. A brain aneurysm is so scary to me. Any death is devastating, whether it's sudden or a ticking clock. But this kind of death stirs up a lot of fear in me. It's so random, so sudden, and I fear a similar fate.

I am afraid to die. I'm even afraid to write about this for fear this will be some ironic last post people will read after I'm gone. But I'm not superstitious and in writing this down, I hope I will be able to quiet my mind long enough so I can fall asleep tonight. In dying, I'm not so much afraid of where I'm going but what I'm leaving. Ever since my son was born, I've been afraid that something is going to happen to me and he will be motherless; that I'll be taken from him before he'll be able to know me or remember me. Since my dad died almost five years ago, I've been afraid that other loved ones will be taken from me. Now that I have a son, there's been a shift for me. Yes I fear that I will lose my son or my husband or other family or friends. But for the first time, I fear that I will be taken away.

Death seems so random. Why Allyson? Why my dad? Why someone else's dad or child or sibling? I want death to be logical - you get lung cancer because you smoke. Then there's something I can do about it - I won't smoke. I want control over death - if I eat healthy and exercise, get plenty of sleep, don't get too stressed and wear my seat belt I will be safe. But it doesn't work that way. Death overtakes the healthy and unhealthy, the young and the old and everyone in between. I feel powerless to death. My time will come when it will come. And being God's beloved doesn't give me much comfort. He took my dad. He could take my husband or my son. He could take me. He heals some and not others. Who knows why. Every night I lay my hands on my sleeping husband and my sleeping son and beg God, "please, please protect them - body and mind and heart and soul. Please don't take them from me. Please don't take me from them." I need help to live, without this weight of death on my shoulders.

As a therapist, I have clients who want to die. (Or perhaps better said, see that as their only way out of the tremendous pain they're in.) I have other clients who are afraid to live - really live - in fear of change, pain, loss. This is my struggle as well. And yet, I am so blessed to be in the midst of so much life - my 8 month old son is so full of life! Everyday he teaches me how it is to truly live - without fear, fully engaged and present in each moment, giving his all in everything he does whether it's fighting sleep or trying to crawl or laughing in delight over the kitties or playing and splashing in the bath. He is fully alive in body and spirit and heart and mind. I want that always for him.

My heart goes out to Allyson's family and friends. How devastating. May I live - truly live - with freedom and passion - until it's my time to die. And I will continue to lay my hands on my family and beg God every day.

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