Some thoughts about living with death...

Today was my mother's 96th birthday.  My sister and I spent the afternoon with mom and tried to celebrate with her.  Mom was awake and seemed to know we were there but most of the time it was difficult to know if she knew who we were or why we were there.  Over the years, watching my mom's health fail, her memory fail and then her mind fail has been extremely difficult.  I remember a vital person with energy and a love of life.  Now there is a shell with only a small glimmer of the life I remember. 
Today I also found out that the next oldest in my family, my brother, does not have long to live.  His lungs and bones are full of cancer and now he has pneumonia.  Although I have not seen him for years and we have not been on good terms for over 30 years, I still feel sad to know that his life is being cut short and with so much suffering.
Today got me to thinking about death.  My grandmother Bandel's end of life was much like my mother's, slowly dying from a series of strokes.  My grandfather Bandel was extremely vital until the last year of his life.  He died at 95 years old.  My dad died very suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 76.  So, looking at the family history, death can and has come in many forms.
When I got sick in 2002, I was very near death twice.  The second time I almost gave up and let myself go.  It wasn't that I feared death, it was that I decided I had too much to live for.  But being that close to death was almost calming in a strange way.  I felt that my death would be peaceful and would eliminate my suffering.  For me, the end of life is something we all must face and the best thing we can do is face it with courage and dignity.  However, for some like my mother, death comes slowly and the dignity is taken away.  For others like my brother, death comes too fast and with too much suffering so again the dignity can be taken away.
I guess I would advise that everyone reading this to plan for what will eventually come.  No matter what, all of us will face the end of our lives.  Jim and I already have our funeral arrangements made and paid for and our legal papers are all up to date.  So, if either (or both) of us face our end, we are ready.
And, I know that death is not necessary the end.  If nothing else, we will live on in the memories of those we know and love.  And my personal view is that what ever is our spirit, our life force, or our life energy will live on.  Who knows, perhaps we will come back in another life until we finally get it right.
Whatever the case, my father and my grandparents live on and are always with me.  They walk along my side and they inspire me daily.  Some day soon my mother and my brother will join them.  And in the years to come, I will be the one to live on and walk with someone too.   

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