Thursday, July 29, 2010

Death is No Way to Learn

Marty’s father died suddenly after routine surgery, six years ago. He died old enough to have lived a long, good life. He died old enough to see his two children’s successes and failures, he died old enough to see his grandchildren get married, he died old enough to see a lot of the world and know people. He died young enough for his family to see a full church at his funeral and to hear how much he was loved and admired by so many.

I remember sitting in the church for his funeral and I was struck by the outpouring of admiration, real affection and love for this rather gruff, self made agricultural entrepreneur. I heard countless tales about what a good man Arty was and how he had selflessly helped so many. I knew how much I admired him, I knew how much his family loved him, and I heard how his friends held him in high esteem. I wonder if Arty ever really knew how people truly felt about him. I wonder if he knew how much I cared about him.

Do any of us really know how much we are loved? We may think we do, but somehow we always manage to question our worthiness of this love and respect. Is that just me, or is that just Marty?

Confidence in being loved, assurance there are people in our lives who will steadfastly stand beside us and love us through our pain, is hard for some of us to grasp and believe. We rarely get this type of genuine affirmation in our daily life, we rarely give this type of affirmation until we or someone else dies, and then it’s just a tad bit too late.

I think Marty knows, I think Marty knows she is loved. I know she has seen it and felt it from many people. The cost of finding the love, the strokes, is way too high, but she is one of the fortunate who knows they are truly valued.

She didn’t always know; she didn’t always feel that lovable or deserving of love and affection. She didn’t always understand how much the people around her cared about her. She does now and she didn’t have to die to see it, just almost.

Every day Marty is cared for by three very special caregivers who always treat her with respect and admiration. She gets her cheek kissed every time she goes and sees her Doctor, the guy we lovingly call Great and Wise. The nurses and staff treat her like a minor celebrity and someone they genuinely love and respect. She is recognized at restaurants we frequent, movies we regularly attend and is always greeted with hugs and affirmation every time we manage to make it to our church. Marty is touched and loved in ways few experience, and I am sure she recognizes it.

Marty has seen the love of her family and friends, she has been the recipient of the love and care of countless medical professionals and she has earned the admiration of most that come in contact with her. She has been able to see her adult children care for her in ways parents rarely, if ever, see of their progeny, and she has lived to see me love and support her in ways neither of us thought I would be able to do. Knowing is one of the few gifts of the strokes and it comes at a too steep price.

It seems such a simple thing, telling the people we love and admire, that we love and admire them. We are not very adept at having sincere moments with each other. It’s not a small thing, we all want, we all need to hear it, we all need to feel it and we all need to know that the feelings are real, that we are loved. The sincerity of the moment does not require a funeral, it really doesn’t even require a catastrophic illness; these events just help push real feelings to the top. Marty knows that because she now gets to see how people really feel about her, she gets to see they love her, there should have been a better way.

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