So far this year, I’ve seen more grief and death among family, friends, and community than in recent memory. I’ve been reflecting on these deaths ranging from a friend’s two-day-old baby to 81-year old beloved senator John S McCain III who served our country for 60 years. I’m sure you’d agree that when death hits, grieving is never easy nor does it come in a straight line.
In this article, I’m sharing 17 Revealing Lessons About Death That Will Make You Think Differently About Life.
The day after returning home from an out of state funeral for my favorite uncle, we learned that another beloved family member suddenly died. Off we went to another state to mourn the family’s loss. August 25th, 2018, our long-time Arizona Senator, John S. McCain III, died, at 81, from brain cancer. Although I didn’t agree with a lot of his political views, I found myself crying and being very emotional for days following his death. I think I was emotional about his death (and find myself getting teary writing this) because of what he represented to me. He lived his life full out. He focused on gratitude and compassion as emphasized in this article.
His daughter, Meghan McCain, gave a powerful and tearful tribute during her father’s eulogy. I love this part:
“John McCain was defined by love. I know who he was. I know what defined him. I got to see it every single day of my blessed life.” -Meghan McCain
“John McCain was defined by love. I know who he was. I know what defined him. I got to see it every single day of my blessed life. Click To Tweet
What about the other end of the spectrum…
When babies die
On our drive to Colorado recently for my Uncle Riley’s funeral at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, I learned that a friend and mentor of mine lost her precious baby girl at just two days old. Yes, you read that right.
A huge team of us were praying, holding healing space and ultimately grieving with this beautiful little girls’ parents through each step of their journey.
At a time when giving birth should be a joyful experience full of hope, wonder, excitement, and love, these eager parents went from feeling excited to facing excruciatingly painful decisions no parent should endure. I thought about my own kids and how fortunate I am to have been blessed with the responsibility to raise children in this world.
Babies represent life which is why it is extra difficult when babies die. They represent the circle and cycle of life. I love seeing babies at funerals for this reason. It was especially wonderful and emotional to see my cousin’s baby boy with his adorable bowtie and handsome blue eyes. Another cousin and his wife had their beautiful baby girl there too. Fortunately, I don’t attend a lot of funerals. At our other family funeral, there were plenty of babies and kids around to remind us how precious life is.
Beautiful little Maebel reaffirmed for me the importance of faith, courage, unconditional love, gratitude, and how incredibly connected we all are.Beautiful little Maebel reaffirmed for me the importance of faith, courage, unconditional love, gratitude, and how incredibly connected we all are. Click To Tweet
She also reaffirmed for me in a BIG way that we must be detached from outcomes.
One of my dear friends, Dr. Jerri Eddington, lost her son Shawn when he was 16 months old from complications from the flu. I wrote this article about how gratitude, grief, hope, and compassion collide as a way to honor her and Shawn as well as what we can learn from the tragic loss of a baby.
17 Revealing Lessons About Death That Will Make You Think Differently About Life:
- Live every day to its fullest. We truly aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. My Uncle truly made the most out of every trip and every day. I believe John McCain lived his life to the fullest too.
2. Do what you love and love what you do. My Uncle Riley lived a full, loving, authentic life doing what he loved (flying airplanes) and being with people he loved. John McCain lived a life doing exactly what he loved (flying airplanes and being in the Senate) and it showed. If you feel stuck doing something you don’t love, find a way out… now. If not now, when?
3. Invest time, talent, wisdom and money in the experiences, causes, and people that matter. Remember, time is the one thing we will never get back.Remember, time is the one thing we will never get back. Click To Tweet
4. Live life consistent with your values and beliefs and BE of service. John McCain had integrity and lived his life this way. When he made decisions that weren’t in alignment with his values and beliefs, he self-corrected…when he could. He held firm in his beliefs. He believed in community and service. He was like the energizer bunny and kept going and going and going with tremendous work ethic. He believed in reaching across the aisle and compromising for the greater good… for something beyond himself. THAT’S what it’s about, my friends.
- Mind your mindset. Our ability to get through our darkest times depends on how we perceive events and how we develop the courage and resilience needed to make it through. John McCain is a perfect example of staying positive. After returning from Vietnam as a POW, he had every reason to hate life, harbor anger and resentment and feel contempt for the situation he was in all those years. However, he remained focused on being grateful for life and making the most out of every day.
6. We can’t take away the pain from loved ones… nor should we. While we want to take away the sorrow, supporting them through their feelings is what helps them build resilience.
7. Humor heals. At my Uncle’s funeral lunch, we shared funny stories about him. This helped unpeel the many layers of grief. At John McCain’s many funerals, people such as Joe Lieberman shared funny stories that made us laugh. This, too, helped bring levity to an otherwise unbearable situation.
8. Death can bring out the best and worst in people. Be sure you are aligned with people that are going to lift you up – not bring you down or cause drama. Remember that when people show us who they are through their words and actions, believe them. I won’t bring family drama into this. Just look at the people around you who have had loved ones die and remember how people behaved.
9. Everyone grieves differently. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Even siblings grieve a parent differently because their relationship was unique to them. This was certainly the case with me and my sister when our parents died. My friend and her husband who lost their 2-day old are grieving differently, too.
10. Time helps heal but it doesn’t make it stop. I believe the deeper the love, the deeper the grief. We never stop grieving. Our grief shifts over time. It’s like unpeeling an onion one healing layer at a time. The ‘first’ of everything is always the hardest.
In the case of my friend, even though she is spiritual and believes her baby’s journey was for a reason that will unfold, she and her husband have a lot of pain. She has the physical pain and body changes of giving birth. There is the nursery and no doubt things around the house that remind them of the baby they never brought home. There will be a lot of hard days, months and years ahead.
Another friend of mine, Michele, lost her beloved husband of 30 years in May 2018. This loved minister left a huge legacy and hole in the community. My friend is also a minister and there are days she didn’t know how she was going to breathe and get through the day. There were days she was mad at God. I’m guessing my aunt felt the same way in the days and months after my uncle died. I’m sure there’s a version of this that remains no matter how much time passes.
- Infuse Fun in your everyday life. Create Memories. Do not wait to take those vacations. My Uncle Riley and his beautiful family experienced amazing things around the world. These memories help heal and create beautiful legacies. My friend, Michele and her husband Lonnie, took annual vacations and experienced many adventures together. His funeral had table after table of pictures from their life together. It was clear they lived an authentic life full of love and fun!
12. Speaking of legacies, it’s never too early to have conversations of the heart. Ask older family members questions about their life. It will bring you closer together and help them be at peace. Remember, in the end, our lives will be measured in a sentence or two. Pick your sentence today. Think about how you want to be remembered and then take action each day with your words and actions toward that legacy.Remember, in the end, our lives will be measured in a sentence or two. Pick your sentence today. Click To Tweet
My Uncle created a beautiful legacy for everyone that loved him through his living consistent with his values and beliefs. Same with my Aunt Sini. You can see her beautiful legacy when you see her beautiful children and granddaughter.
My friend’s beautiful 2-day old baby that died left a legacy of unconditional love and support. People around the world prayed for her, held hope and vigil. While she didn’t travel around the world, she touched lives all over the world.
I think it is absolutely beautiful that Senator McCain planned his entire funeral…down to every last detail. This probably helped him be at peace with death. In the last year of his life, McCain shared his regrets and final thoughts.
- Hurt people hurt people. When hurt people lash out is when they need our love and compassion the most. This goes for anything in life. Love always wins over hate, fear, and worry.
14. Plan your death in life. This is the only way to ensure you and your loved ones left behind will have some peace and less stress. Here’s the other part of building a legacy: the legal stuff… the stuff we don’t want to talk about. Consider Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, who died without a will! Other entertainers who passed away without a will include Prince, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Sonny Bono and Kurt Cobain.
Perhaps the most notorious case of an entertainer who died without a will is James Brown. It’s been 11 years since he died and not a penny of his estate has been distributed yet. There is no end in sight to the chaos of his estate.
You don’t want to leave your life assets in disarray or not have your wishes followed.You don’t want to leave your life assets in disarray or not have your wishes followed. Click To Tweet
The only way to ensure your wishes ARE followed is to have (at a minimum):
- A will.
- Durable power of attorney.
- Medical power of attorney.
- Advanced medical directive.
Find out how you can get all of these documents AND have access to talk to any attorney for any reason at any time for a low monthly rate here: https://bit.ly/coachtandyls
This month is National Prepardness Month and the theme this year is Don’t Wait Communicate.It’s not just death we need to prepare for, it’s all emergencies. Preparing your family for an emergency is as simple as a conversation over dinner. Get started with tips from www.ready.gov #PrepareNow #NatlPrep Click To Tweet
You know… just in case you needed an excuse to get prepared!
- Everything is energy and energy is everything. Your loved ones are always just a thought away. Ask for their help. They want to be there for you. There are ways they can now be there for you in ways they couldn’t in the physical world.
16. Help can come in unexpected ways. A friend who was a caregiver for her mother got help from a distant aunt when she needed it most.
17. When death happens, we can question our faith in God, our trust in life, and why seemingly bad things happen to good people.
I believe everything happens for us, not to us. We never know what this means or how tragedy can possibly turn into blessings; particularly amid the depths of pain.
I believe GUS (God, Universe, Spirit) has a bigger plan for our lives that we don’t always see. I can think of countless stories where horrific tragedies turned into advocacy, people choosing a different life path, and life blessings happening where they may not have otherwise.
As a four-time cancer thriver who beat stage 4 head and neck cancer the fourth bout, faith, trust, support, and gratitude is what got me through. I absolutely believe without a shadow of a doubt that had my mindset, faith, trust and positive support system been anything less than this, I wouldn’t be here today. Keep hope and faith alive in your heart and mind.
May these lessons help guide you in life so you can experience greater love, peace, happiness, and freedom.
What’s missing from this list? What’s a big lesson you’ve learned from death, grief and loss? Comment below with your thoughts!
Want more articles like this?
1. Here’s the article I referenced above about my friend Jerri’s experience with her son, Shawn. https://tandyelisala.com/when-gratitude-kindness-grief-hope-and-compassion-collide/
2. Here’s an article about what cancer taught me about love: https://tandyelisala.com/365-life-shifts-cancer-taught-love/
3. Here’s a forgiveness and healing exercise: https://tandyelisala.com/forgiveness-and-healing/
4. Here’s an article with some affirmations to help infuse positivity in your life: https://tandyelisala.com/30-repeat-worthy-september-affirmations/
5. Here are 3 grief myths and how to bust through them: https://tandyelisala.com/3-grief-myths-and-how-to-bust-through-them/
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