The Different Colors of Death

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The recent death of my ex-wife made me think not only about her death but about the deaths of my departed family members. I welcome the opportunity to share with you how I experienced these deaths–all different emotional reactions.

I couldn’t stop laughing at my uncle’s funeral.  It was not so much that I thought that death was a joke but when I was younger I coped with sad things by laughing.  In this case, uncontrollable laughter overtook me and forced me to leave the funeral service in utter embarrassment.  I remember being bent over in the hallway in hebephrenic laughter, eyes tearing, and wanting to stop but couldn’t get the image of my uncle’s elongated nose sticking up from the casket out of my mind.

I did not laugh at his wife’s death, Aunt Marian.  She was my favorite aunt and she was one chubby, loving and giving person.  But as she was dying of colon cancer, all shriveled up in the hospital bed–I didn’t know what to do or to say.  It was awkward. I was clumsy. She was obviously dying and wanted someone to support her in her last days.  I remember that I told her that she didn’t look that bad and that she will recover.  “No, Mark.  I’m going to die.”  Her words still ring in my ears.

I don’t remember much of my grandmother’s dying or my grandfather on my father’s side.  I was too busy in my head with college and what I was going to do with my life to think much about the subject of death.  All I remember was that I was very hungry after my grandfather’s funeral service and couldn’t wait for us to go to a local Jewish deli and get some corned beef on fresh rye bread, with plenty of brown, spicy mustard and creamy potato salad on the side.

I was too damn angry with my father to be any good to him during his dying process.  He laid there in his house with hospice care by his side in a coma.  He was gasping for air. His body was stiff and cold.   I thought to myself, I used to love him. Now I’m angry with him.  I will spare you from all the details, but I will say that my father was like Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman and I was the son who found out that Willy was having secret sexual indiscretions.

But my ex-wife’s death was special to me.  Her death painted a picture of her in my mind.  She painted me a picture of her warm, loving heart.  She painted me a picture of the young girl who just wanted to be happy and loved, instead she was mistreated and abused.  She painted me her sad but beautiful life that I will keep in my heart forever.

I also want to thank my ex-wife for teaching me many things like how to use a computer and how to write stories and how to be compassionate to other people and what it’s like to suffer as a black person and how to have more patience with people and how to change a cloth diaper and how to take chances and to do things that I would never have done if it weren’t for her.

For that I will always be grateful.  May you rest in peace.

For more on my ex-wife’s death, read Yoga and My Ex-Wife’s Last Breath.

2 thoughts on “The Different Colors of Death

  1. I know what you mean about when an “ex” passes away. I had to deal with the same issue, but I felt it deep in my soul. I always wanted my husband to have more for his life than what I offered him. When I left, I prayed for his recovery and for him to find his peace by seeking out a “higher power” as I had done. He was an alcoholic, and now I feel that he’s been released of that pain and all that he perceived as suffering through his life.

    I’ve always heard that death is harder on the living than those who pass on. But I also feel that those of us left behind have to remember our departed as they once were. For me, I regret not knowing my ex-husband after he found his recovery. I heard a number of wonderful stories from his friends at his memorial. I heard from his pastor that Clay accepted Christ. That was my solace in knowing that. I hoped that at least what I offered to Clay was a glimpse of that peace and maybe it pointed him towards that end. Of course, it could be because he had no other choice; his family wasn’t going to step in my shoes of co-dependency and take care of him.

    At least from what you wrote, Mark, you found good reasons to remember how your wife affected your life and how that has made you be the appreciated, good hearted soul that you are. You learned your lesson and you’re moving on. May that peace keep you as you walk through your life.

    1. Thanks’s Theresa. I was surprised at how much guilt I experienced and how many things triggered my memories of her as she was dying and at her death. I’m glad you shared your story. Your religious strength almost feels tangible to me.

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