The Gifts of Life and Death

I’ve been mulling over how to process being bombarded with too much bad information yesterday. So, bear with me as writing is catharsis for me.


Yesterday morning, Craig told me that a co-worker of his died. I didn’t know him. I think I only met him once. But he had a family. A wife. Two small children. Lots of people he loved. Lots of people that loved him. He had cancer. Ugly, crappy cancer. Oh, how I hate cancer. I hate it with every fiber of my being. The fact that it claimed another innocent soul makes me shake with anger. I thought about him and his family all day.

His name was Naphtali Y. Matlis.  I think there is power in names.  In naming, we give power and presence.  Remember Naphtali.

Then, I find out yesterday afternoon that a dear soul that I DID know also died. She died suddenly. Just collapsed. We still don’t know why … it appears that her heart might have just stopped. She was 43 years old. Less than 2 weeks ago I was celebrating meeting her in person for the first time. We laughed. She taught me new words (like how an “e-poo-phany” is when you have a great thought on the toilet.).  We danced in the grass, barefoot. We cried happy tears. We connected – soul to soul. And just like that, she’s gone. I thought about her and her family all night.

Her name was Kimberly Davis.  Remember Kimberly.


When I woke this morning, after a night of strange dreams, I realized that my mind was not settled on just Naphtali and Kimberly. No. I was dreaming and thinking about ALL the people and ALL the families last night. Not just the ones who have died … not just the ones I know or have known. I was connected to all the people in the world that have faced death in some form or another. In other words, ALL the people in the world. The connection faded quickly, but it left an imprint I’d like to share.

Life and death are a circle. Visually, the Ouroboros is how I imagine it – the snake that is eating it’s own tail. For me, the cycles of life and death are inextricably intertwined. In life there is death, in death there is life. We witness both constantly and continuously on a daily basis – life and death in nature, in our psyche, in our actual physical lives. The problem with this view is that it can appear that we are constantly moving toward death. Which isn’t wrong, per se, but it can be a little morbid to think that all we’re doing … all we’ve done … that it always results in death.

IMG_0038This type of thinking – this constant comfort with the idea of death – sometimes leaves me feeling a little jaded. There’s the whole, “well, death is just the inevitable truth of life.” A dead tree in the yard just seems like more work to be done.  I squished bug is just waiting for rain to wash it away.

Naphtali and Kimberly lifted the fog for me, yesterday. Even if only for a moment. This is a great gift that I want to celebrate.

We carry on each day doing the best we can to be the best we can. When we truly witness death – when we allow ourselves to feel the grief and strife that comes along with death – well, that lifts the veil on life. That thin cloth that we are shrouded in daily slips ever so slightly. Our vision is brighter, more discerning, more aware.

For me, this awareness – this exposure to the brightness of life – well, that’s how I choose to celebrate the lives of those who have left us. I don’t know any other way. I am so deeply saddened by deaths … but  I am strangely exhilarated in my own life. It does not feel cliche, at this time, to say, “Every moment, every life, is precious.” I want to continue feeling this way, even in the face of death.


This morning, Craig and I got up and worked out. That seems such a normal thing to do, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I was cleared by my doctor to go back to an exercise routine.  Is it strange that I was told I could return to my normal activities – the thing I LOVE – on the day that I was confronted with multiple messages of death?  I choose to believe that it was not a coincidence.

When I first woke to the sounds of Craig waking, I didn’t want to get up.  I was comfortable and cozy and ever so sleepy. But Craig’s motion, his moving about – his choice to face today – helped me shake off the fog. I got up and dressed and prepared. I felt a brightness. A fullness. I felt LIFE. I felt A-LIVE.

As we went about our morning routine of getting the kids fed and prepared for school, I could feel the veil beginning to close in again.  It’s comfortable, so I’m not completely saddened by this.  But LIFE has a way to showing itself at the strangest moments. I am reminded that life has a mind of its own … a way to insert itself into the harshest of conditions and thrive.

I witnessed this in my own daughter, who found a IMG_6442four-leaf clover this morning.  Her excitement and beauty … her life … reminds me that THIS life is all we have.  This, my friends, is the gift of life.  Life gifts us the knowledge that there is always another day. That THIS is the life we must live.

And there are also gifts in death. Death gifts us a knowledge, a stopping of time, a moment to appreciate life. That while death may be inevitable, it doesn’t have to be morbid or sad or scary or ugly. It can just BE if we let it just be.

The message that I am left with, after a day of emotion and a night of dreaming, is this:  Please, don’t waste your gifts. Don’t turn away from them. Rip them open with aplomb and enjoy your gifts fully and openly and joyfully. At the end of our days, whenever that may be, those gifts will be what we’ve left behind – our legacy – to those who continue the circle of life and death.


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