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Clio's Temple

In the midst of death, we are in love

"In the midst of life, we are in death." With these words, the minister began the committal prayer for my mother's body. As I sat and listened, the sentiment grew within me that, while these words are true, there is a lot more to be said about death and how we brace ourselves for its impact.

To begin with the most obvious point: we prepare when we can. Mom had been in declining health for years and her decline had accelerated in the last twelve months. As she slipped away from us, her communications declined to just a squeeze of the hand and the whispered words "I love you." In my life, her love was fulfilled and complete.

Five days before Mom passed out of this life, my cousin Greg lost his long-running struggle with high blood pressure and kidney failure. Because we came from a small family, we for many years had developed a closeness more like brothers than cousins. Years and physical separation had attenuated those bonds, but when he went into one of his crises four years ago, I flew to Connecticut to ask him if he would accept me as a kidney donor. For reasons I'll never understand, he preferred to wait on a regular donation - which never came. I understood why he would not allow his sons to register as potential donors; they still had decades of productive life before them. I wish I could have persuaded him at least to let me make the effort to donate. Nothing might have come of it, but at least I would not now be nagged by pangs of conscience. If only I could have made him understand how much his presence in my life meant to me . . .

The impact of death striking those much younger than ourselves is something for which none of us can prepare. Two days after returning from Mom's funeral, the local newspaper headlined a story about the death of Meredith Legg Stapleton, a standout basketball player for the USC Aiken Lady Pacers. She had battled a particularly pernicious form of melanoma for five years. Eight days before her 27th birthday, it took her away from the loving embrace of her husband of sixteen months, her parents, a brother, sister, brother-in-law, one nephew, and two nieces. In the coverage of her battle against cancer, her faith and good cheer are perhaps the things that struck most of those who knew of her struggle. So perhaps when there is no other resort, we arm ourselves with as much courage as we can.

Now my family is wrestling with the unexpected death of Travis, my cousin Greg's oldest son. He had been fighting a viral infection when I saw him at his father's funeral, but his death blindsided all of us.  He had been taking anti-depressants for some time and we fear he may have inadvertently taken an overdose. In the face of this unrelenting onslaught, what defenses can we build?

I'm further along toward old age than I like to admit. I've come to the conclusion that we can't armor ourselves against such a sea of troubles unless we remember that there is one thing stronger than death - love. As long as I can love, I can face the loss of some of those who are dearest to me.  In the midst of death, we are in love. I hope I can remember to live the rest of my life in that same spirit.

Mom, Greg, Travis - I love you and always will.

11 Comments to In the midst of death, we are in love:

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joanne simson on Wednesday, March 05, 2014 5:09 PM
This is a wonderful way to look at the loss of so many loved ones. And it is SO important to love while we are alive - not just the people in our lives, but also everything around us and our life itself.
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Steve Gordy on Saturday, March 22, 2014 8:37 AM
Joanne, thanks so much for your kind words. Over time, these losses will be woven into the fabric of my life. I'm richer for having known every friend and loved one I've lost.

Pat Aukema Dickson on Wednesday, March 05, 2014 5:09 PM
In life, we are in death; in life and death, we are in love because "God is love". We are made in his Image; therefore, we are love. Love you, Steve. I am so sorry that you have had to experience so many losses so close together. I do not have to tell you that you will see them again.
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Steve Gordy on Saturday, March 22, 2014 8:38 AM
Pat, we both know what it means to lose a parent who was at the center of our lives. I'll always remember Mom and Art as two of the best influences on my life.

Kim Blum-Hyclak on Wednesday, March 05, 2014 5:17 PM
Beautiful. I know you were struggling to find the words for this post, but in your search you've found the perfect balance and poignancy of love and death. So very sorry for all your losses. Your nephew Travis' touched me especially because he was so young and the death so unexpected. Will hold all of you in my prayers. ~Kim
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Steve Gordy on Saturday, March 22, 2014 8:40 AM
Kim, I deeply appreciate your kind words. The past few weeks have been a severe trial for my aunt - she's lost her only son, her only sister, and her oldest grandson. I have to do whatever I can to support her. Having the good wishes of friends helps a lot.

Phyllis Walls on Wednesday, March 05, 2014 9:27 PM
Very touching, especially to me, having gone through the loss of my parents, and a younger brother, he was just 23! Loving family, friends, has made the journey we are on all the sweeter. Along the way, we need to be about showing & telling those that we love and making sweet memories!
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Steve Gordy on Saturday, March 22, 2014 8:42 AM
Phyllis, thanks so much for your condolences. Losing family members always adds a special poignancy to "going home"; it's just not the same without them.

Martha Nebel on Wednesday, March 05, 2014 9:56 PM
You have eloquently expressed your sentiments about death and love of one another. I also had to say so long for a while to eight of my loved ones in a short period. Every year I lose at least half a dozen friends. I remember the good things about them. But sometimes I grieve for them all over again and at once. I loved them all and I miss your mother.
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Steve Gordy on Saturday, March 22, 2014 8:43 AM
Martha, thank you for your kindness. I know we have to expect such times in our lives; it's just part of the pain of living. But without the pain, would we ever know how wonderful life is?

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