Letting Death be Your Teacher

Guest Post by Rachel Lewis

In one year’s time, two of my children died during pregnancy. In that year, my very dear grandma also suddenly died.

I think of it as a year of death. A year that has forever changed me.

I know death has changed me when I look at my sleeping child, and I can’t help but wonder what she will look like in her coffin. Would I bury her in her pretty pink princess dress? Would I tuck under her arms the stuffed rabbit I had when I was a baby — or choose the dream light unicorn, so at least it wouldn’t be as dark in there?

I know death has changed me when I see a cemetery in town, and wonder which one we’ll decide on as a family . . . and the decision to me seems no more emotional than wondering what our first house will look like, or which city we hope to end up in.

I know death has changed me when normal conversation with my husband so easily turns to what we want in our funerals, and whether we should be cremated or buried.

I know death has changed me when every once in a while I envision myself at my own funeral, and see my family and friends mourning, and wonder what I could possibly do NOW, while I’m still alive, to soften the blow of my death.

I know death has changed me when a friend announces a pregnancy and instead of simple joy, my first thought is, “I hope the baby doesn’t die.” (But of course, I never say that.)

I know death has changed me when I live with an ache in my heart that sometimes can be ignored, but never goes away for good.

I know death has changed me when prayer is war. How do you love and praise Someone whom you feel so deeply betrayed you? Or, perhaps worse, seems to have forgotten about you?

I know death has changed me when I hold my daughter’s hand that much tighter while we walk the neighborhood, because I just know something will happen if I loosen my grip.

I know death has changed me when every time I say “good-bye” to someone, I have a nagging feeling that this “good-bye” might be our last.

I know death has changed me when my dreams are full of horrific and graphic loss that brings tears to my eyes, both in my dreams and when I awake.

I know death has changed me when life seems like the exception, and death seems like the rule.

I know this all sounds very macabre. Death has changed me. And sometimes, I hate what it has done. But it has also changed me for the better.

I know death has changed me when I study my daughter’s eyes, and savor every expression that dances across her face as an absolute gift.

I know death has changed me when I remember to loosen my grip on my little girl, and give her the chance to experience all that life can offer.

I know death has changed me when “I love you” always goes with my “good-bye.”

I know death has changed me when someone’s grief no longer scares me, and their tears feel like an invitation to share in the most sacred of moments together.

I know death has changed me when grief crosses all barriers, and binds my heart to another’s whom I otherwise never would have known, befriended, or loved.

I know death has changed me when imagining my death does not strike fear in my heart, but rather motivates me to leave my imprint on the world while I still have breath.

I know death has changed me when a baby is born alive and healthy, and I know what an absolute miracle she is.

I know death has changed me when I see heaven not as a resting place, but as a living place.

I know death has changed me when I choose to fight with God in prayer. I give Him my pain. My betrayal. My anger. And I place my bruised, bleeding heart into His perfect hands. He doesn’t heal my hurt. But He does always hold it for me.

I know death has changed me when I stop trying to be perfect. And instead, just try to be.

I know death has changed me when I have the courage to love a child I know I might not get to keep. Death has taught me that our time together will end. But love never ends. And love is always worth loss.

As often as I revolt against death, hating it for it’s power to change life — to end life — I have learned that death is not just an enemy, but it is a teacher.

Death will change you. But death can also teach you to live.

“It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.”

— Ecclesiastes 7:2

How has death been your teacher?


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    June 4, 2013

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