I had a few different topics planned for my next blog, but as I was sitting about trying to come up with which idea I wanted to tackle first, I heard the news that Heath Ledger had passed. Normally, I'm not much of a celebrity buff, but it was the buzz around my office as many of the women in my office cried, and were shaken by the news. The trickle of information was slow, but now more and more tidbits about that fateful day are being shared, and painting a picture of what truly happened. But for me, I couldn't help thinking of his family and friends, who are now having to deal with the aftermath of what happened. I suppose my own experiences with death have shaped that.
One of my first jobs in high school was a groundskeeper at two funeral homes. I drove large commercial lawn tractors, trimmed shrubbery, pulled weeds, and generally made the place look nice. The whole fact that this job was dealing with death never crossed my mind once, even with the constant reminders about - the headstones, masoleums, and funerals most days while I was there. I never worked on any funerals during the 5 months I worked there, but my coworkers were busy dealing with arrangements, plot set ups, and generally doing the work that nobody else wanted to do. My boss said something that struck me to this day, "Death is part of life, and the best thing you can do when someone is gone is to remember the good times. Funerals are for the living to try to jump start the healing process." I'm not sure what happens when someone passes, but seeing the various setups, hearing some gatherings with laughter, some sadness, some large, some only three people, the experience is very personal and very real.
I learned the lesson myself when I lost my mom to cancer in 2005. Up until that point, I had never lost anyone close to me, and my mom was a big influence on my life in many aspects. I tried so hard to live up to what I thought she wanted me to be, yet it only mattered to her that I was happy. I didn't realize that fully until my last real conversation with her three days before she died. I told her about the Timbers Army, the fun I was having supporting my soccer team, and how I was thinking of going to England the next year. She told me that I was the happiest she'd seen me ever, and that I would regret not going to England so I needed to go. At that point, I was convinced I needed to do this no matter what. Thankfully, girl helped me through the process and putting things together, along with some great nudges from fellow TA members. I had to do this not for myself, but for her because she knew it would make me happy.
Something my stepdad said to me a few days after the funeral stuck with me as well, as my mom had said to him that I would be a huge mess if she ever died. Supposedly, I wouldn't be able to function or know what to do. While I was angry at the comment, I realized that in her own way, it was her prodding me to be happy because that's when I would be at my best. Now, over two years later, I have the bestest fiancee in my life, I have great friends and a great team to support, and I get to declare my love for girl in April before we go back to England. I had never been there before, but the place spoke to me and I have only felt that way about one other place - Portland. I just knew I was where I should be, and I think my mom knew that. In death, she was more worried about all of us being OK, she stopped worrying about herself and was at peace. I suppose that's the best we can hope for at that point, and at some level, it's probably incredibly uplifting and terrifying as hell.
But that's what death is all about. It's part of the cycle of things, and without it, life doesn't take on as much significance. As I think of my niece just 5 months old, it's the whole cycle of life without the dumbass Disney tune in the background. We deal with things as best we can, and move on with the love and support of those here and those from beyond. Death shouldn't be something to be scared of, although not knowing what's out there is a struggle for some. For me, I just look at it as the next big adventure whenever that may happen. Right now, I'm having too much fun around here.