GERRI BOWEN: ON DEATH and I LOVE YOU

Since July, three people in my family or close to those in my family have died. We all die. Everyone we know will eventually die. We understand this, yet when it happens unexpectedly we wonder why? Could it have been prevented?

My cousin’s wife died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 48. We learned this while at the yearly family gathering on the Shenandoah. It was also the hottest day of the year, somewhere over 103F. She and her family had not attended, and while she was home, she mowed the lawn and then pulled weeds.

She was retired from the State Police as is my cousin. That’s where they met. She was intelligent, had a wry sense of humor and was an all around wonderful person. The kind of person who volunteered and gave of herself to family and community. She left behind a husband, triplets and an adopted son, and numerous family members.

It has been said that if she hadn’t mowed the lawn, or if she had attended the family gathering, she would still be alive. But we can’t know that. All we know is this wonderful woman died unexpectedly and is gone.

Last month the husband of a niece-in-law died of cancer. He was 50. Born in Belfast Ireland, he had been in this country for over 25 years. Managed his own company. He was the kind of person who made you smile as soon as you caught sight of him, because he was funny, and you enjoyed being around him. Kind. Caring. A wonderful husband and father.

He wasn’t a smoker, never had been a smoker, so his doctor probably didn’t consider cancer when he heard about the throat complaints, trouble swallowing. He was treated for reflux. For a long while. The cancer spread and was finally detected, but too late.

It was said that if the cancer had been detected right away, he might still be alive. But we can’t know that for sure.

Today I attended the funeral for a 31-year-old woman. She was a close friend of my youngest daughter, and I had known this woman for more than half of her life. I really liked her, and was proud of how she handled her life, the way she matured and admired her utter enthusiasm for living. She followed after me and became a massage therapist. I was very proud of her for that accomplishment, and kept thinking I needed to make an appointment to show my support. Well, it’s too late for that.

She died in a car accident. She was a passenger and the car hit a pole. She wasn’t wearing her seat belt. She was a smart woman. Why was if off? Had she unlatched it to turn to the back seat and look for something? Take her coat off? Did she drop something and just had to retrieve it?

It is said that had she been wearing her seat belt she wouldn’t have died. I don’t know.

I do know that our lives and those of the people we love are short. A long and healthy life is not a given for any of us. So, I propose that the next time we say good-bye to someone we love, we tell them, I LOVE YOU. They will look at you funny, or there may be a silence on their end of the phone, or they may be annoyed. Phffft.

Know that the last thing they heard from you was, I LOVE YOU.

 

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10 Responses to GERRI BOWEN: ON DEATH and I LOVE YOU

  1. Poignant piece Gerri. I began doing what you proposed over 20 years ago after the lost of a treasured family member. Every once in a while, I ask my hubby, “Did I tell you I loved you when you left the house?” “Yes, you always do Donna,” is always his reply. Thank Goodness.

  2. Kristal Hollis says:

    So sorry for the losses you’ve recently suffered. Life is indeed short, no matter how long we may live.

  3. Dear Gerri,

    I am so sorry for these losses. These folks were young, all of them. So hard.

    I just heard today that a friend of mine (my son’s God Father) died. He was 70 and had been sick for a long time. But his death was sudden for me, and I still can’t believe he is gone. And loss no matter what the age is difficult to accept. His life was not short but he is missed.

    The biggest thing I have learned in caring for my 86 year old mother, is that the reward for a long life is loss after loss after loss. Many are losses of people. Some are losses of less tangible things, like independence and mobility. At a minimum, these 3 deaths you have experienced – these 3 wonderful people won’t have to experience that kind of loss themselves.

    Life is fragile … from the moment of our first breath … we just don’t realize (or learn) that until we are older.

    My sincerest sympathies.

    Elaine

    • Gerri Bowen says:

      Thank you, Elaine. I think half of Baltimore attended her funeral yesterday, standing room only, parking lot full so people had to drive to a nearby office building lot to park, walk along a busy road, and then cross an exit leading onto the beltway to get to the funeral home. People did it. I was happy that her family could see how much this young lady meant to so many, and how loved she was.
      Yes, if we live long enough we suffer the loss of the people and animals in our lives. Your mom is lucky she has you to care for her.

  4. heartfelt post, Gerri. What a sad time you’ve had of the last few months. One of my staff died suddenly this summer and it reminded me that I need to appreciate every person in my life. When I was 19, my 15 year old sister died in a car accident. her and her best friend died on the scene and their boyfriends both died three days later. My sister was thrown from the vehicle and she landed on a broken electrical wire. Cause of death: electrocution. If she’d landed a few inches over, she’d likely still be alive. Tragic
    in 1983, I was driving down a dark highway, the dead end sign had been knocked down. when I came up to the ‘T’ intersection, on the far side of a hill, there was no road. I tried to turn but didn’t make it. my car went end over end and then rolled side to side down a steep ditch. I got thrown out from behind the wheel and landed in a field, wrapped around some big rocks. My kids didn’t have seat belts on either. none of us were injured. If I’d landed a couple of inches further, I’d have been killed by those rocks.

    It’s not fair that my sister didn’t live but I did. But those 2 accidents taught me that life is a matter of inches and seconds. and every day I need to tell the people i love that I care. because life is a gift and we can’t tell when we’re goign to be taken from this earth.

    thankks for the reminder

  5. Stormie Kent says:

    This was a reminder to tell those you love, “I love you.” I’m sorry for your losses.

  6. Gerri Bowen says:

    Thank you, Stormie. Right, if you love and care for someone, tell them so.

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