“He passed peacefully in his sleep,” is what we tell our relatives when we inform them of Grandpa’s passing. It’s not not-true. Grandpa did pass away peacefully. But what was left out was the harrowing process of witnessing his life slowly diminish in front of our eyes. No one really talks about that aspect of death: the laboured breathing, the lips and extremities turning purple, the body cleansing itself of all its bowel contents, the vitals so weak that they cannot be measured by machines and therefore the families having to frequently hold a mirror underneath the nose of our loved one to detect their faint breath—or the lack thereof.
People also don’t talk about the intricate procedures that ensued immediately after the person passes. Who do you call to issue a death certificate? Where does the body go before it gets buried or cremated? What if you want a funeral with open-casket? Where do you find a respectful embalmer? Who will be writing the eulogies? What about religious rituals, if there were any?
How do grief-stricken families navigate all this?
And just when you finally made it through all the ceremonies, grief sets in—prodigiously and mercilessly. You start to notice the stark void that the people whom you loved had left behind.
She understood loss and how it leaves a hole in the soul that can never be filled.Santa Montefiore
I wrote Grandpa’s eulogy on Saturday. As I recounted all the memories we shared, my brain was stuck in a loop. How can I effectively and succinctly encapsulate such love? How can anyone?
During the process of writing, I also reflected again on my own eulogy; as in, how do I want to be remembered? In teaching, we commonly employ Backward Design when we plan our units. (We take a look at all the curricular goals we want to achieve by the end of the year, and backward engineer our lessons to ensure we cover all necessary grounds.) So perhaps because it is already deeply steeped into my thinking process, I live my life by how I want to be remembered at the end of my life.
What about you? What governs your behaviour and how you best live your life?
We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.– Chuck Palahniuk