Dear Kuni,

Confusing, confounding, painful remembering, regretting, rethinking, changing perspective.

These are some of words that come to mind when I think about deaths of loved ones. I have loved and lost both my dad and my husband in the past few years.

Dad died in year 2002. I felt my dad had dealt with this impending death the way he dealt with life practical, no-nonsense and intentional. The doctors told him he had roughly 3 years to live. He proceeded to live an extra four years after his due date! And didn’t forget to remind me when I visited him.

He taught me that you need to follow the doctors’ orders to the letter and that you do not need to be too afraid of death. “It is inevitable” he said. His intestines were misbehaving and he had to eat soft food for years. Whatever I eat my favorite  pumpkin soup today it always sparks a memory of my father.

My father had been my friend since I was young. We understood each other although we did not always agree I regret not having asked him more questions about some of his personal and family decisions that I found confusing. I think at 84, he would have answered me honestly and I would have learned something that I don’t know now. At what stage does one stop treating a parent as a distant other? Maybe I would understand myself better than if I had tried to understand my father better or if I had paid more attention to his decision making processes better. I don’t know but maybe. And now I will never know.  I remind myself that you cannot leave this life alive.

Whatever form death takes, it is an exit strategy. Disease, accident, suicide, war, short or long illness bravely borne. When you leave, you leave, period. Death is the final result of whatever the cause. It is the result we have to deal with. How you die doesn’t change what you were. If you were a devoted, generous husband or a good father no matter what caused your death, you still are and will be remembered as such.

If you were a mean wife beater and you die an honorable death (i.e. you just don’t wake up one morning or from an unidentified short illness) you still were a mean human being to your loved ones.

The remembering is about who you were and what impact you had on my life not your mode of exit. That is what I learned when I lost my husband in an accident surrounded by unclear circumstances.

My husband died suddenly. The trauma was heavy.

I learnt that I probably take myself too seriously as if I am going to be here forever. I will not be. I was reminded that death has no notice. I was amazed, annoyed and felt stupid that I could have been with Muito a few hours earlier and had no way, including a foreboding, an instinct, a sense, that it was going to happen. I am still somewhat confused about that.

After the numbness, pain and anger, I settled down to the feeling sorry for myself.

Then after a year I figured that I had better get my act together because nobody else will do it for me.

I learnt the most important lesson in life is that life goes on!

No matter my pain, confusion, anger or whatever, life is not going to stop and wait for me.

So I am getting on because life doesn’t owe me any favors.



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