Death is a scary thing. We don’t know what it feels like. We don’t know what happens to us after we die. It can happen to anyone at anytime. And the scariest part of death – it is inevitable.
So it can be especially tough when it comes to a loved one getting sick and watching them drift away before your eyes. Even more so when a death comes as a complete and unexpected shock.
In my young 23 years on this earth I have had to say goodbye to many people who have left an impact on me. Most notably and recently, my grandpa (my mom’s dad) who really gave to me the desire to explore my faith and hold it as a cornerstone of my growing and developing life. His very presence showed me the importance of service and prayer – two big things that would deepen my education in college. My grandpa’s faith had such depth that trickled into his work life, his family life and his social life. His faith was who he was and it showed from inside out.
There was my grandma (my dad’s mom) – also known as mimi – who showed me how strength is not in numbers but in the determination, perseverance and love a person has. For every single day for ten years my mimi took care of my grandfather (who I called dziadzia) when he was sick with Alzheimer’s disease. When the disease became debilitating, my mimi did everything in her power to keep him living at home, which he did until his last few days on earth. Even in her own days of being sick my mimi always managed to get by on her own even with multiple problems that would keep a normal person down.
There was my Aunt Helen who taught me the importance of having fun and doing what makes you happy. I loved hearing stories from her younger years when she would live life to the fullest. She moved to Vegas when she was young, she loved a high ball and a pink squirrel (two of my favorite adult beverages) and always knew how to have a good laugh. Even in her finals years she was doing things her way and I loved that about her. Her fun-loving, attitude has rubbed off on me – trying to make the most of every minute I have on this earth. It can be jamming to music in the car, going for a hike in the woods, stopping to get soaked by the rain. Whatever the case may be I try my hardest to make the best of every situation and find the smile in it.
Then there was my Uncle Leo, who really was a catalyst for my love of writing and learning. I’ll still never forget the last words he said to me: “Stay in school and keep learning. You’re never too young to learn something.” I have taken that sentiment to heart, as I’m in graduate school and still looking for anyway I can to stay in school. I love learning. It has almost become obsessive. Learning something new, whether it is a subject matter, a skill or even busting out into the world for a new adventure, I get a thrill like no other. Finding joy in learning and always knowing its never too late to try something new and learn something about yourself is what life is all about. This mentality started when I was just a little kid. My uncle would talk about his days in the Korean War and the subsequent days when he came back and pursued his love of writing. I was mesmerized. When I had a class project to explore my family history, I took it a step further and started interviewing family members about their own histories.
I think it was then that I became fascinated by my family. The individual people who are all in their own right unique and complex and have something beautiful to offer this world. After all, these few have each left me with a very special gift and a much needed life lesson. They, among others have all been my angels. I know that even after I said goodbye on earth that they continue to watch over me and keep me in line. They are people I pray too when I feel weak, scared, defeated, dumb, annoyed, or just plain lost. I think of them and the lives they lead and somehow even if I don’t have a distinct answer, I feel reassured in the journey I am on.
And that is what I I wholeheartedly believe is the craziest quite possibly the scariest part of life: it doesn’t quite end when it does end. It does go on. And we always have our angels with us wherever we go, to look over us, to guide us, to hear us and to love us.