Opinion: At death’s door


They say bad news comes in three. First, who is “they”; and second, who made “them” the arbiters of bulletin delivery? Yet like so many of the old-saw populating our common lexicon, these often seem true. As the gloomy tidings roll in, we live in foreboding, expecting the next dark messenger to arrive. And with the appearance of the third in our unhappy trinity, we relax to enjoy our false security that the worst is over.

As is the nature of things, as we age those we love age along with us. With the surprise passing of yet another decade, we are taking careful note of the face in the mirror but often ignore the deepening lines in the faces of our parents, grandparents, and other loved ones. We humans have a sell-by date. It is often not readily apparent, but don’t doubt its presence. Our lives can list from robust to decline in an instant.

Last week a close friend lost her battle to a mean cancer leaving her young daughter, despairing husband, and family absent understanding. This week, a dear aunt finally let go of a life that had shifted from joy to burden – as the advancing years stripped her memories along with so much dignity. And then, a close cousin, almost exactly my age, reached out to let us know that he’d decided to discontinue his cancer treatment and hope for the best. Life, he said, was not meant to be lived as he was being forced to endure it.

While most of us, happily, will not darken Death’s door for quite some time, why is it that Death is so pleased to show-up, uninvited, bringing the bereavement to us? With Death comes longing and sadness, but also is delivered a seed of hope. Why wouldn’t we plant it?