Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Living Without Regret

When asked the hypothetical question, If you could, would you want to know when you are going to die, the answer I've most often heard given, and indeed my own answer, is no. But I'm beginning to learn the merits to "yes".

My grandmother is dying. She has dementia and her condition is rapidly worsening. It is not a happy situation, but it is one I am learning to be grateful for. Knowing that someone you love is dying, creates opportunities most of us don't otherwise take advantage of.

I have had the privilege, along with several of my family members, to take care of her. It is not a burden, not even a responsibility. It is a privilege because it has given me the opportunity show her how much I love her. Many of us say that we love each other, but in the business of everyday life few of us slow down enough to take the time to demonstrate it. My grandmother's declining health gives me the opportunity to put the needs of another before my own. Every time I give her a shower or help her with the toilet or give her a spoonful of food I am able to show her in a way infinitely more powerful than mere words just how much I love her. It is a gift for which I will never stop being grateful.

It is the opportunity to say goodbye on my own terms. I think a major part of death we fear, and that is less talked about than the fear of the unknown, is the fear of regret. This is something I know about. My father died nearly two years ago quite unexpectedly. The last time I saw him, things between us were awkward. Not bad, but not the way I would have chosen it to be had I known it was going to be the last time I was ever going to see him. I don't have that regret with my grandma.

Every time I see her I know it might be the last time. I have the chance to take this immense love and shine it down on her sick body. It's the opportunity of a lifetime (literally) and I'm going to take advantage of every single second I have with her to do it.

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