Understanding the indiscriminate nature of death remains impossible

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By Travis Mayfield

I heard the thump and sat up with a start.

I had been dozing in the sun in our backyard.

Looking around I saw a small bird struggling at the base of the French doors. It flopped about and landed in the flower bed.

Quickly realizing this bird must have flown into the glass of the door I began to move toward it with the intention of helping it.

Just as quickly I realized I didn’t know what to do to help.

The bird really was no bigger than the palm of my hand and I was concerned it might be newly out of the nest. I didn’t want to pick it up and get my scent all over it in case that kept its mother from helping it. I also was fearful the bird might struggle against my touch and hurt itself further.

In a fog of dread I sat mesmerized desperately wanting to help, but feeling powerless to do so.

That’s exactly how I felt upon reading a text from a dear friend last Wednesday night which simply said, “Grandma’s gone.”

That’s exactly how I felt when my iPhone rang as I walked into a meeting Friday morning and heard from another dear friend, “My aunt isn’t going to make it.”

That’s exactly how I felt when I read the email on Saturday breaking the news to the KOMO staff that our beloved producer had lost her battle with cancer.

I feel mesmerized and desperate to help, yet powerless to do anything.

Death does not discriminate. No matter our age, health or faith, death comes for us all.

The only power we who remain have, is to embrace living. We must promise to faithfully tend the flames of memory for our dearly departed, but we must also renew our vow to keep living.

It hurts and it doesn’t make sense, but we go on without them.

That is life and that is what each and every one of those we have lost would have wanted for us.

I know this to be true, but I also know I need time to grieve before I return to life’s full embrace.

In helping other’s through their grief in the past, I have held to one tenant. I believe we must embrace the pain of the loss because it is through that pain that we honor the one we have lost. The deeper the pain the more they are likely to have touched our lives in their life and the stronger we will hold on to their memory. 

I believe we must allow that pain to exist and to consume us as a tribute. 

But I also believe we must let that pain eventually subside and find a place for it to live along with our remembrances. 

I am trying so hard to take my own advice and to know that the pain of these losses is in fact a way for me to honor them.

Still understanding the indiscriminate nature of death itself remains an elusive impossibility.

You see upon returning to the backyard to later look for my small bird last Saturday afternoon, I found the bird had recovered and flown away. 

I discovered that despite my inability to do anything, life continued. 

And despite my deepest wishes and greatest prayers the lives of my friend’s grandmother, my friend’s aunt and my dear coworker did not.

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