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i am lucy layne

meeting death

My mom died on the fourth day of September 17 years ago. Meeting death taught me a lot of lessons. Some of them, right away — others, I am still learning.

1. Death is horrifying — to anyone, at any age.

2. Slow deaths seem to make people believe that they can prepare. They can’t. They still come as a surprise — a cheap shot, so to speak — because no matter what you are expecting, you’re never really expecting death. Sudden deaths are a shock — not because the grieving didn’t have the time to ill-prepare, but because they are traumatic by nature.

3. Grief is like a midnight sky, but your light is like the stars — the clouds may sometimes block them, but they can never put them out.

4. All five stages of grief are real, but it is different for everyone. There is no right way to do it.

5. Death will make you feel things you don’t quite understand. Mostly because you’re feeling a million things at once. What I found is that fear usually wins. I think this in true in most cases, not just in death. But people react to fear differently. Some people don’t even know they’re reacting to it. I have seen death tear apart marriages and families — people who loved each other, who were going through a loss together. Sometimes, death scares us so much we never want to witness it again. We push people away. Maybe we think that if we remove someone from our lives, we win. As if death can never hurt us again. On the other hand, it makes other people cherish every person, every moment in their life … because they are afraid of having regrets when they die. It’s also everything in between and outside of those things.

6. People are not themselves when they are grieving. I will say this again … it is different for everyone.

7. I’ve learned that nothing is unforgivable, and nothing is unforgettable.

8. I’ve learned to forgive and forget.

9. Death taught me about gratitude and how much better it can make every single day.

10. Death taught me to not be selfish. I was mad sometimes that other people were visiting my mom. I was mad because I wanted all of her time for me and my sister and my dad. But death taught me that life isn’t about me — that we share the world we live in, and everyone’s feelings are important. It wasn’t just other people who wanted to see my mom. My mom wanted to see every single person who walked through the door. It made her happy, and by way of selflessness, it started to make me happy too.

11. Fuck, man. Death taught me not to really care what other people think. People will always judge you. If you can just accept that, the air around you will be a little easier to breathe.

12. Screaming at the top of my lungs was one of the greatest things I have ever done in my life. Like really fucking screaming.

13. I know a lot about sleepless nights and nightmares. Sadness … I think I have that covered. I know that death can be really ugly. It absolutely takes over some people’s lives — it consumes them, changes them. Death is strange, yeah? No one really understands it for certain.

14. I learned that I didn’t want my life to be dictated by death. I didn’t want to be scared of losing people to it. I didn’t want to not talk about it just because it might make some people uncomfortable. I didn’t want to not think about, but I didn’t want to think about it all the time, either. So I tried to embrace it. I spent a lot of time being mad at death and being sad about it. I still am sometimes. I’m OK with that, though, because I’ve also learned to find beauty in it. And that’s a perfect segue into my last lesson …

15. Death taught me that life is about balance.