It’s odd the way human beings respond to death. We race to the hospital at the end of the day to catch one final glance, one last hand squeeze. We sit at home worrying, dreading that definitive phone call. We pray and ask countless others to do the same. We make soup, desiring some semblance of normalcy in a life so visibly shaken.

And, at the end of the day, most of these behaviors result from fear – of guilt, of pain, of living one day without someone that you’ve forgotten how or never knew how to live without.

The old Donneian mantra, “No man is an island”, was never truer than in those moments. Because, when you love someone, a part of your soul resides inside of his fragile human frame. Some people carry a fraction large enough to feel their absence after not speaking for 24 hours. Others hold a fingertip’s worth and rise to your consciousness in the stillness before sleep or in the reminder of some shared memory. When you lose someone you love, you don’t just forfeit future experience with that person, you mourn the loss of some small or significant fragment of yourself. A part of yourself that has loved the other person so deeply and fully that it has become part of their identity as well.

This morning, my husband’s family lost Grandpa Panza, Blake’s maternal great-grandfather who lived and loved in ways that one can only hope to speak of in their final goodbyes. I like to think that he was comprised of more love than actual human substance in the end – having his hands held and body hugged in between words that reminded him of this fact. He was a pillar in the community, a man who built a good deal of what you see today in West Haven, raised six children, held grandbabies in his arms, used up goodness knows how many bottles of Witch Hazel to keep his skin looking young, and placed pictures of hundreds of memories around the kitchen walls.

But perhaps the most telling thing about this man’s life was the woman who sat next to him after 72 years. And maybe it’s because I’m more sensitive to it in having just committed my life to someone 9 months ago, but I think the resilience and beauty in that kind of relationship goes beyond the realm of words. If you have someone beside you at the end of 94 years, you’ve got something special. Something really, inhumanly special. 

(Thanks for sharing this picture, MIL. It's so beautiful.)
I suppose we react oddly to death because we put so much value in life. A life well lived is difficult to let go of. A life well loved, even more so. 

I loved getting to know you, Sabino Panza. And for 9 months, I was proud to be your great-granddaughter. You take many fragments with you. 

1 comment:

  1. That made me cry again. I forgot about the witch hazel, which considering he put it on my knees countless times, you would think I would never forget that. He loved you, and frequently told me how wonderful you are.


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