The Meaning I give my Life

At some time in our life we are confronted by death and the reality of our own mortality. Often our first experience of death is the loss of a grandparent. It is sad, painful, sometimes confusing, but it does fit into the natural order. We, or people around us, will talk about ‘a good innings’, a ‘long life’ as a way to ease the pain of grief and the almost overwhelming sense of loss.

But the death of someone in youth or middle-aged, someone close to your own age, is entirely different. One’s own mortality is put in very stark relief. The fragility and randomness of life is undeniable.

I do not believe that ‘everything happens for a reason’. I don’t believe that a tragedy that befalls somebody is preordained or has some higher purpose. But I do believe that the meaning is what we choose to take from, or give to, the situation. The unfairness, the untimeliness of an early death is very difficult to accept. We mourn not just the death, but the life not lived.

A father not there for his daughters’ dance concerts, formals, graduations and weddings. A friend missing from drinks at the pub, the empty spot at the family dinner table. This is not how we imagine our lives to be.

And we struggle not just with the emotion, we struggle with words. It can be incredibly difficult to find the right words, any words when faced with death, with the bereaved. People have quite literally moved away from when I mention my mother-in-law’s death. I need the opposite. I need a moving towards me, a hand on my arm, a touch on my shoulder. The silence that surrounds early pregnancy and miscarriage is a defensive shield against the embarrassment of our inarticulateness. And yet, when I suffered a miscarriage, I wanted my grief and loss acknowledged.

As we struggle to make sense of death and grief, so it is with life. The meaning is in the decisions and choices we make every day. Not just the ‘big’ life altering decisions. At the end of my life, I hope to have left a legacy of love for my children, family and friends. I hope I have worked towards my goals and dreams and even achieved some of them. I want to remain active and engaged in the world around me and concerned for those less fortunate than myself. I won’t find the cure to cancer, or invent some extraordinary new device, but I can live my life the best way I know how, to continue to learn, love, desire and strive.

We live and we die. We may not choose the manner and circumstance of our dying, but we do choose how we live and in doing so, imbue our life with its meaning.

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4 thoughts on “The Meaning I give my Life

  1. I find it’s the same Jennifer when suffering the loss of someone in a relationship. The future you had in your mind, with them in it, no longer exists and it’s a terrible hard grieving process.

    (Thanks for your recent comments. You know my kids aren’t into Mary Poppins at all. I had all intentions of taking my daughter in the New Year to see the live show but she’s not interested. We’ve got the book and DVD and she doesn’t like it. She’d rather see “Dinotopia” or something like that. Oh well. LOL)

    Anne xx

  2. Such thoughtful writing- made me reflect on many things. I think people respond to death differently and for some it is so private that they imagine it must be the same for everyone else, although I can’t imagine not comforting a friend when someone in their family died.

    As for how to live our lives I agree.You have ti find what has meaning for you. I don’t have children so my take is bit different. I want to leave as light a footprint as possible, not in memory, but in what I use, consume, waste.

  3. A well-written and thought-provoking post. As you said above, my first experience of death has been the loss of grandparents, two have passed away in the last 12 months. And there were one or two people who did seem to close down when I told them about it. It was really not helpful to receive that kind of response.

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