Tag Archive: death


Grief is such a huge and too often taboo topic, possibly because different people grieve in different ways and so it is often hard to know what to say or do when someone has lost someone they love.

We have already looked at some powerful stories from people who have lost a baby and those who have lost a child, but what about someone who has lost a person who has been in their life for even longer?

My friend, Catherine Rogers, asked me some questions on this recently:

I remember the first funeral I ever attended. A close friend’s father had committed suicide and a sadder occasion I have never experienced since. It was then that I first began to wonder: how does a person cope with such a loss. It’s devastating, it’s life altering and it’s absolutely incomprehensible to me. You see, I haven’t yet lost anyone close to me but I have watched as the people around me have, and every time I wonder, how do you do it? How on earth do you move on? I myself am not afraid to die and I accept that death is a part of life and everyone must face it in the end. But something which scares me deeply and rests heavily on my heart, is losing someone: being left behind. 

What happens when you lose someone who is such an integral part of your own existence? How do you deal with such an event? I feel this, for me at least, fits into your taboo topics easily. Do you ever find that you’re too afraid to mention aloud or even think about the death of someone you love just in case it might actually happen? I do because while I understand the undeniable eventuality of death, I do not understand what happens after: the coping, the acceptance, the moving on. Are these things really possible when an important part of your life is gone forever? 

So this is an invitation to those of you who might have lost a family member or a friend, someone who was close to you, to share your story with us and to maybe touch on some of these questions. How have you been able to cope and move on and continue with ‘normal life’ and is life ever ‘normal’ again?

I am hoping that for a lot of people, simple being able to put their story into words here might help to be some small part of the healing.

Meet Tarryn Patel – who lost her sister, Lauren Kirkwood

Meet Cambria Hooven – who lost her mom Judie

Meet Kim Overbeck – who lost the love of her life, Tegan

When Sickness or Tragedy strikes – in the wake of my best mate Rob’s death a few of us came up with some ways to help those facing the tragedy which might be helpful for you to post for others to read.

tombstone

i read an exercise in a book the other day that encouraged us to imagine that we had died:

‘what do you hope the people closest to you might say at your funeral?’

‘what kind of obituary will they write about you for the local newspapeR?’

[from Free: Spending your Time and Money on what matters most, by Mark Scandrette]

in answering those questions we have to realise that nothing is going to magically happen one day for those things to suddenly become true

if it’s not true now, then it’s very likely not going to suddenly be true later

the truth is, your obituary writing starts here

it starts now

and you write it

not physically, but by the way you live your life, how you speak, what you give your time and money to

do you think you would live life any differently if that was the first thought on your mind as you woke up to start a new day?

my obituary starts here

now, how am i going to live, to make it a good one?

A friend of mine connected me to Jennifer’s blog posts which she has just written and they are deeply moving and heart-breaking, but at the same time I think it can be so powerful for those who are going through a similiar journey to be connected in some way to others who have also walked or are walking this road. I really appreciate her willingness to let me repost her blog and encourage you to continue on to the three follow-up posts she has written which I link to at the end… [since the time of posting this, Jennifer has continued to blog her journey and so there are now ten posts which are all linked to at the bottom of this]:

First Ultrasound:

This morning I had my very first ultrasound. The midwife immediately commented on the strong spine, and soon after we were listening to a description of the four chambers of the heart—perfectly formed. All the things that first-time parents long to hear.

There was only one problem – that perfectly-formed heart was not moving. Our baby likely died around two weeks ago (the doctor we were sent to suggested there is no way to place a timeline on things, as the baby could have just been progressing slowly, but our hearts tell us otherwise).

We spent much of the afternoon/evening alternating between tears and numbness. As Allyn keeps saying, “it comes in waves.”

Given that we discovered the death before my body registered any signs, we decided to try medication to begin the process of passing. My midwife assured us that I should not be alone when the miscarriage begins and given that our work schedules don’t always match up, it seemed best to begin this process earlier than either of us want – during a weekend when both of us are off work.

I’ve had conflicting emotions – the desire to hold on, even though I know logically that the baby is dead. There is a part of me that believes as long as it remains in the womb, it will be safe and protected. The other part of me doesn’t know what to do with the knowledge that death resides inside me – that the tiny, well-formed being that rests within my uterus is gone.

It reminds me of a chapter in Trauma and Grace (which, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find today—but, thankfully, portions are on google books). This book by Serene Jones features a chapter on reproductive loss and seeks an appropriate theological image. After spending time writing of grief and our lack of meaningful images and help for women who have experienced reproductive loss (in this chapter she deals with infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirth), she tells a tale of the Triune God. Apparently theologians like Moltmann and Luther have suggested that when Christ died, the death was taken into the Godhead. It was considered a limit and a contradiction that the Triune God could take death into itself and yet live. Jones suggests this may have been a limitation of the male theologians that discussed the idea – for women who miscarry do just that. We carry death inside of us, and yet (sometimes despite our desires at the time), we live. She compares the Triune God to a miscarrying woman, and I love that. It means even during this time when so few people know, I am not alone in this tangle of death and life. God, the Creator and Giver of life, has felt death within God’s womb.

It is a strange image—and one I recognize could be offensive to some—but it rings true for me. I have passed on this image to other women grieving after miscarriage, and I find that in some quiet way, it comforts me.

I took the pills, knowing it was my best option. And now I wait. Four hours after pills, there is still no blood or spotting to indicate that anything is happening.

I imagine some are wondering if I regret telling people that we were pregnant before hitting the so-called “safe” point. I don’t. We had originally planned to wait, but I began wondering why there was such a stigma around telling. Obviously I understand why some wish to wait and don’t want to grieve publicly if something happens. But it seems many of us begin to make that decision simply because we are supposed to. And I began to fear that the reason was shame. That the system is built around the idea that if something goes wrong, it must mean something is wrong with me. And to be honest, it is hard not to feel that guilt now.

The very first thing said to me by the doctor, technician, and midwife was “this was not because of something you did or did not do.” And I get that. We were planning for this pregnancy. During the waiting period, I was already following pregnancy guidelines. And I followed every guideline I found to the very letter of the law. Limited caffeine? I’ll avoid it all. No hot tubs? I’ll even turn down the temperature of the water on my showers. Lunch meat should be heated? I’ll avoid it altogether. I’ve avoided all medications. And certainly no alcohol, cigarettes, or illegal drugs.

But what if the “wrong” thing was my very body? What if it acted against my will to destroy the life inside of me? And that is certainly a possibility. But even if it is so, I’m not responsible for that.

Telling people will be hard. But it would be just as hard and just as awkward if this child died a year after birth. There will always be awkward moments of people not knowing and asking the wrong question or saying the wrong thing.

And today has taught me that I desperately need people. Neither of us ate much today. We ate sandwiches for lunch because we were supposed to. We tried to drink water, because the ultrasound technician made us promise to do so, fearing dehydration and sickness in addition to the pain we already felt. We talked about how we knew we needed dinner, but neither of us was in a state to do anything about it. Enter my family. My parents and sister loaded the car with more food that any 5 people can eat and sat with us. It was the first time that we were able to laugh a little and talk about something other than loss. And we needed that. We will need friends and colleagues in the coming days. Our excitement and joy and hope was not a mistake. And neither is our grief now.

Author’s note: This is the first in a series on pregnancy loss/miscarriage. It was written the evening of the ultrasound, so if thoughts seem disconnected, etc., you will note there is good reason. 

You can connect more with Jennifer’s blog here and also read the ten follow-up posts she has posted:

Still Pregnant – http://jenniferharrisdault.com/2013/05/28/still-pregnant

How are you? – http://jenniferharrisdault.com/2013/05/29/how-are-you

The pants can’t win – http://jenniferharrisdault.com/2013/05/30/the-pants-cant-win

Of angels, rainbows and resentment: http://jenniferharrisdault.com/2013/05/31/of-angels-rainbows-and-resentment

Out of control – http://jenniferharrisdault.com/2013/06/01/out-of-control

Sonnet 10 – http://jenniferharrisdault.com/2013/06/02/sonnet-10

The business of miscarriage – http://jenniferharrisdault.com/2013/06/04/the-business-of-miscarriage

The broken things – http://jenniferharrisdault.com/2013/06/05/the-broken-things

Counting the days – http://jenniferharrisdault.com/2013/06/06/counting-the-days

This is what a miscarrying woman looks like – http://jenniferharrisdault.com/2013/06/07/this-is-what-a-miscarrying-woman-looks-like

Hush baby – http://jenniferharrisdault.com/2013/06/09/hush-baby

The Long Road – http://jenniferharrisdault.com/2013/06/12/the-long-road

Of Laundry Ladies and Goblins – http://jenniferharrisdault.com/2013/06/13/of-laundry-ladies-and-goblins

Cancer is a beast!

it used to be this far off distant disease that you heard about and was pretty scary, but i’ll bet you most people these days know someone who has been through it, is currently suffering from it or undergoing treatment, or knows a number of people who have died from it.

my gran, Doris Anderson, died of skin-cancer related issues. as did my uncle David Anderson. and then just recently my 30 year old cousin, Laura Anderson Markle [David’s daughter], who had only been married for such a short time, was diagnosed with cancer and died within about six months. my best friend and one of my best men from our wedding, Rob LLoyd, has just finished his second round of chemo and been cleared from the cancer that was inflicting him… and i could name many more.

it is a beast. and a violent one at that. and it does a lot of secret and savage violence and fortunately medical advances are happening all the time and so hopefully doctors are getting better and better at dealing with it.

but i think it has been a bit of a Taboo Topic – it is unpleasant and scary and so we would rather not talk about it and just pretend that it’s not there and secretly hope and pray that it will go away.

and how do we deal with someone who has cancer? do we ask questions? can we? should we not mention it? is humour allowed in any form or measure? are we allowed to ask them about their long-term plans? can we help? should we help? or do we go on as if life is normal?

i am hoping that as some people share their stories here, whether firsthand or perhaps stories of loved ones, that we will start to better understand and be able to talk about some of the related issues. after all it is very real and prevalent and maybe there are people you know who have cancer who really need you to be able to be the person they talk to, confide in or whose shoulder they borrow from time to time.

the purpose of this Taboo Topics series is to let you know that you are not alone. there is a light. and there are many people who have walked this road and are walking it and will offer you support wherever you may be on it:

meet Aaron Fullerton – writer for hit show Graceland who survived testicular cancer and managed to find some humour and insight in his blogging about it

meet Wendy and Xylon van Eyck – Xylon has been struggling against lymphoma

meet Noemi and Zofeya – four year old Zofeya diagnosed with brain tumour

meet Heather Martin [specifically speaking to friends of cancer sufferers]

meet Ray Ferrer, artist extraordinaire – this is a memorial testimony for an incredibly strong man who i met online

an article i read in the Los Angeles times which gives some good advice/principles for not saying the wrong thing

Laura Anderson Markle

my cousin Laura died two days ago.

she was 30. recently married. then cancer reared its ugly head. absolute tragedy.

just before she went into hospital i did get to send her an email and let her know that i loved her and was praying for her and her family and hoping for a miracle from God [which sadly never happened, not how i was hoping anyways]

so it was really sad, but there was also a strong sense of love and support of friends and family surrounding her in the months leading up to her death.

last nite i went onto facebook and saw message after message, from a whole variety of unlinked friends of mine across the country, mourning the death of Burry Stander, aged 25, a South African olympian mountain biker who was killed on Thursday while training after being hit by a minibus taxi

Absa Cape Epic 2012 Stage 5 Caledon to Elgin Valley

i didn’t know Burry, but a lot of my friends clearly did [either personally or just as fans and supporters]

i doubt any of them got to send him an email before he died.

for the most part, we just don’t know when we are going to die. or when those around us are.

FUNERALS

i have a love hate relationship with funerals.

i know they happen because someone died and so they are meant to be times of sadness, but for the most part i have enjoyed the ones i have been to… when they have been celebrations of the person’s life, rather than simply testaments to the fact that someone has died. i especially love the open mic. time when it happens when friends and family are invited to come forward and share a story about the person they love who has passed on.

but i am also always pretty bummed that the one person who really should be hearing the stories is not officially around to hear them. so one of my big dreams in life [and i guess some might think it’s a pretty sick one] is to come back to life once my funeral has started [open casket] and be able to eavesdrop on what people are saying [and let’s be honest to be able to shout “that’s a load of crap” if someone gets up and starts eulogising me who never had much good to say about me when i was alive. [with dreams like that, maybe it’s a good thing i don’t sleep more?]

the point of today’s scribing is this – how much more amazing would it be if we got to tell people just how much we love them and how much they mean to us, while they are still around to appreciate it?

i want to invite you, to challenge you, to do that! just for one person [for now at least and then maybe someone else tomorrow or next week] who you really care for and who maybe you haven’t told recently [or at all] how much you love them.

but i also want you to share with me who you do it to [i want to hear relationship so not the person’s name but simply a label of friend, family member, work colleague, girlfriend… whoever they are to you] and i want you to pass this challenge on to three other people [and i want to know their names] to encourage them to do the same…

so decide on one person in your life who you want to encourage [verbally, by email, by handwritten note, carrier pigeon?] and three people who you want to send this challenge on and in the comments section of this blog write it down like this:

encourage: my cousin
challenge: Ted, Bill, Napoleon

and then go and do it.

so ja, last nite we had a theatresports show at kalk bay which was all cool and delightful and a bunch of fun (except maybe the two quite morbid but particularly brilliant dramatic one minute challenge games we played – whole nother level) and then i started driving back home to the beautiful val as i do…

when i came to a roadworks part of the road but with no one manning (or womenning) it – now i had come thru it on the way to the show but not noticed anything particularly different from normal except that now it was a lot closer to the show venue than it had been months ago (good sign) and so i paused for a moment figuring out if i must go or not and then knda started to go but saw bright lights coming around the corner and so i reversed enuff for the car to get past and then i waited a while longer and nothing and then i was thinking of going and two more cars came around so now i was getting a little concerned – was this russian roulette night time roadworks dash? and why wasn’t i given a packaged rule book and matching arm tag to show i was competing..?

as i had built up enuff courage and after considerable gap of no cars i started going forwards again and again lights from around the corner and so i reversed and the guy in front was flashing his lights at me (how rude, and yet no flashbacks – ha! – to the time when i inadvertently turned into the wrong way of a two lane one way road system and thort all the cars flashing me were trying to warn me about the first idiot who i had come across who was on my side of the road) and he stopped next to me and told me that it’s a one way and then pointed to the signs…

the signs which if you can imagine me driving down a street are on my left (with an only left sign and a no right sign) parallel to the road… so for example, if i had been out of my car on the opposite side of the road and looking across the road i would have noticed them quite easily, but driving along the road with them passing me on the left as i faced ahead of me (for some strange reason i like to call not driving into things or people) they were less useful…

now there may have been some other signage somewhere else explaining the whole thing to me but it clearly was not very clear and i could have died and i don’t like the idea of that right now (don’t get me wrong, i’m very ready to die when it happens, but at the moment and especially with a beautiful but sick wife waiting at home for me, i’m quite fine with the living thing) and so i was a bit angry with the road and/or sign people…

the second one occured when i was on the orange river recently and we were nappy running sjambok and i got pulled under for what seemed like eight seconds too many and i wans’t convinced in that moment i was going to make it…

and the third was in Malawi in 2000 on DTS outreach with YWAM when we were woken up early in the am with our night watchmen having seen two crowds of mob with machetes and the like advancing up the hill towards our base right while i was in the middle of a crisis of faith and do i really believe this stuff or not…

turns out i do.

and near death experiences are pretty cool and highly recommendable actually (once they’re done – usually during them there are all sorts of issues like hoping you don’t need a fresh pair of pants anytime soon and so on) because they encourage depth. stock-taking. life evaluation… actually i think that might be why some people offer to drive with me from time to time – that and increased prayer life.. i’m just kidding.

or am i. you had a near death lately? any good consequences thereof?

so, once we get past the mindless comments of people responding to the blog title and not actually reading it, what am i on about?

if you haven’t read my other blog about the christians choosing to become atheist (https://brettfish.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/a-theist-walks-into-an-atheist-bigbang-its-a-steel-atheist) i would suggest you begin there, cos this is a (s)equal of sorts…

so in the context of finding out that one of my church peoples had turned atheist over the varsity holidays, i have been giving this a lot of thort and i came up with this:

both of my friends who became atheist were christian and so they know the deal – they understand what the Christian-perceived Bible-teaching consequences of not being a Christ-follower are. they both know that if they have got this one wrong – and continue to stay in it – that they are in a LOT of trouble.

so, knowing the consequences of not being a Christ-follower, they are actively choosing against that and embracing another belief, and everything that goes with it

therefore, there are no surprises for them – they get that if they’ve got it wrong, it’s death. damnation to be more precise.

so it is an active step made, considering the facts or understanding or belief or perception or whatever, away from that

there are many ‘christians’ on the other hand (and i use a small ‘c’ as i always do to depict people calling themselves ‘christian’ but not necessarily following Christ at all) who think they are ‘in’ and ‘making it’ and ‘on their way to heaven’ and ‘damnation-free’ and so on, but who are one day going to stand before God and be completely surprised when He says, “Depart from Me, I never knew you!” [Matthew 7, towards the end, bible downstairs, me upstairs]

they are doing the stuff, going through the rituals, hanging out at church, maybe listening to the music and watching the (awful) movies, walking what they suppose is the walk, but completely missing the point

and as i have been thinking about this whole situation, i think that i would rather have you actively choose to walk away from Christianity and become an atheist (or something else) than be lulled into a false sense of security, thinking you are a Christ-follower when you clearly (at least to God who sees all) are not

“I never knew you” speaks of relationship, not religious hoops – it’s not about you didn’t do enuff stuff or you didn’t get enough people saved or you didn’t attend enough religious meetings or you didn’t try harder – it’s that you missed the primary number 1 key aspect of being a follower of Jesus which is loving God with all your heart and soul and mind (closely followed by ‘and loving your neighbour as yourself’ – matthew 22)

i would, obviously, rather have you follow Jesus with me. after all He claimed to be “the Way and the Truth and the Life” and said that “No-one comes to the Father except through Me” [john 14.6] and that is what i believe and am chasing (and being challenged a lot lately that i need to be more focused on the remaining in Him and building relationship with Him than all the other stuff i get caught up in, so that all the other stuff can flow out of being in a strong place with Him) and would love for you to be a part of

but if you’re not. if you choose to walk away. and pursue something else (because please don’t walk away from Christ-following and just sit around apathetically and believe nothing!) then i would much rather have you do that, than call yourself a ‘christian’ while completely not believing in any of it, or living any of it, but just miserably continuing to live out some kind of sick meaningless pointless waste-of-time facade.

what’s it gonna be?

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