One of the greatest lessons in life is that everything is impermanent. All things come and go. We live in such a structured society, where everything is broken down into steps or organized in a rational way. But there is no rationalizing grief.
I also spent more than a decade in hospice care, where our care team sought to companion families, many like Kasem's, in finding sacred consonance in the midst of fear, pain, death, and grief, all inherently dissonant experiences.
I had personally never given any thought to interment costs even though I am in my eighties. I thought I was in pretty good health with some good years ahead. Then I was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Tonight, my mother and my brother moved the bed out of her guest room. Tomorrow morning, a truck will deliver a hospital bed to take its place. And sometime after that, an ambulance with my father in tow will make the trek from the hospital to my mother's and father's home.
I find myself grappling more and more with the prospect of death. Mine, yours, his, hers, all of ours, in this land of over 50. To tell you the truth I should say, the land of late sixties, because that's where I am now.
Life is a series of deaths and rebirths. Death happens to our bodies every minute of every day yet; this process goes unnoticed because we are busy living life. Cells die. Skin dies. But the thought of the ultimate death stops us dead in our tracks.
There is another arena where 'armchair quarterbacks' also exist -- except this time, those who sit in the metaphorical armchairs have the ability and occasionally, the actual desire to wreak havoc, cause pain and outright destroy relationships.
Why don't we die the way we say we want to die? Because we say we want good deaths but act as if we won't die at all. Because lifesaving technologies have erased the line between saving a life and prolonging a dying.
I have always taken great umbrage at anyone criticizing, questioning or opining on how the widowed handle their grief and their highly individual and intensely personal healing journeys. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of it going on.
Lying before us was a man who had willingly decided that, upon his passing, his body be donated to science. That decision brought with it such powerful consequences that it affected not only the education of medical students but also the lives of the countless patients we would one day treat.
Perhaps there's no greater freedom than to live life with a healthy relationship with death. That healthy relationship allows you embracing each moment, realizing that we are not promised tomorrow. This good relationship with death has been given to me by the funeral profession.