There are some things they don’t tell you how to do. Sometimes it’s things no one can tell you; you just have to experience it for yourself. Sometimes it’s just stuff people don’t like to talk about. Stuff like death and grief.
I’m going to tell you what I know. Obviously, I can’t talk about what it is to die; I haven’t walked that road yet and I hope not to for a while. I can tell you, however, what it’s like to deal with death and with grief — at least, what it was like for me. As they say on the car commercials, your mileage may vary.
There are all kinds of death that you experience in your lifetime. Some are not physical — the death of friendship, the death of a dream or hope, the death of an ideal. These are no less real; the grief we feel for any of them may be no less than experiencing a physical death. However, they are different.
Perhaps the first real sense of my own mortality happened when I was about eight; it was one Saturday in late spring and I was outside on my bike. Our house was actually across the street from our church and I watched a funeral procession come up the street to the church’s front door. As I watched, I was hit with the thought that one day I would be in a casket and a boy on a bike would be watching me pass. With that vision came the realization that the world wouldn’t end with my death and that, consequently, it hadn’t begun with my birth. The axis of my own private earth shifted. I pedaled away but I have never pedaled far away enough.
This all comes to my mind because it is the tenth anniversary of the death of my wife, Kimberly Ann Yale. She died of breast cancer in March of 1997 — too soon, as many have noted. Here’s some of the hard facts I learned from that experience.