You’ve probably heard people say, “life isn’t fair.” It’s never something we like to hear as it usually means we don’t get what we want, even though we deserve it. I mean, we’re smart, we’re lovely and we have good ideas, like all the time. Lame.
While I agree, life isn’t fair a lot of the time…OK, most of the time, I think death isn’t fair. You can’t argue your way out of it, you can’t pay money to make it go your way. Death doesn’t care and doesn’t listen – it does whatever it wants, whenever it wants.
‘Things look so bad everywhere. In this whole world, what is fair? We walk blind and we try to see, falling behind in what could be.’
The worst part is that none of us know what happens. Where do we go when we die? Is there a heaven? Will we be greeted by people we know and all of our previous pets? (All those goldfish I flushed down the toilet would probably like a word with me.) We just don’t know. And we worry for the person who is gone. Are they OK? Are they safe? Do they know we love them and will never forget them?
Since none of us know until we get there, we make up comforting scenarios. Some people have faith in a religion, where they hope to meet God and live in heaven. That sounds pretty good. Some people think there is just nothing, you’re done. That’s a scary notion, but it’s not necessarily bad, right? It’s just nothing.
On Sunday April 28th, 2019 the world lost Michael Moriarty. Married to Ruthie and the father of Mikey, Michael is loved immensely by his entire family. Lucky for him, he is part of a large family, so there’s a lot of love there. Is there a person who didn’t care for Michael? I doubt it. Did you ever meet someone who’s just genuinely kind and cool? When you talk to Michael (or Mike, as I knew him) you know he’s listening. He’s the kind of guy who had a perpetual sparkle in his eye. It’s not cheesy, it’s true. If he loved you, you knew about it. He wasn’t afraid to tell you while bringing you in for a hug. A tragic accident took him away. We are told he didn’t feel any pain and he went peacefully.
‘Worlds are turning and we’re just hanging on, facing our fear and standing out there alone. A yearning and it’s real to me. There must be someone who’s feeling for me.’
As a writer, and also the quietest person in a large family, I’m an observer, a listener and a thinker. While losing someone so suddenly is devastating, I was moved by the reactions of those present. Mr. Rogers said, ‘When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”’ In my family, there are always many people jumping in to help and offer comfort in whatever way they can. Some people cook casseroles, some people give hugs, some people write a blog post. “You do what’s best for you,” said my sister-in-law, Sharon, who is Michael’s mom. And she meant it.
Like Michael, Sharon is an active listener. When she asks you how you’re doing, she really wants to know. She looks into your eyes when she talks to you and cares that you’re in the room. She is almost a mother to all, always making sure everyone has what they need at all times. When we go out to eat, Sharon always makes sure there’s a vegan option for me and even alerts the waitstaff. She’s gluten free, so we both get the obligatory eye-roll.
I watched Sharon go through this horrible tragedy with grace and dignity. She hugged everyone who came to the hospital to visit. She updated everyone in attendance when new information was available. She explained calmly and asked us if we had any questions. If anyone wanted to visit Michael, she would lead the way and offer comfort, even though her heart was breaking. Working in tandem with Ruthie, Sharon agreed to allow Michael to save the lives of many other people who needed his help. In a very real way, Michael lives on in the lives of others. Sharon told us she was so proud and honored to be a part of that decision.
At the end of a very long and emotionally draining day, it was time to say goodbye for the night, as it was time to go home. Sharon looked me in the eye and thanked me for being there for her and her family. She told me she was glad I was a part of her family and that she loved me very much. That she even had the capacity in her heart or her head to thank me is almost overwhelming. I mean, I’m just her brother’s wife. I’m a peripheral family member. I was trying to be comforting to her and here she was making me feel important and loved. That’s a moment I will never forget.
‘I could light the night up with my soul on fire, I could make the sun shine from pure desire. Let me feel that love come over me. Let me feel how strong it can be.’
During my life, I’ve always wondered why people I love suddenly go away. They don’t always die, they just leave for a while or forever. No warning, no explanation, just away. Personally, I think people are sent into our lives for a reason. There’s a lesson for us to learn or a lesson for them to learn. Maybe someone bridges you to a relationship with someone else. Perhaps you just needed a friend during a rough patch of your life. Or, if you’re lucky, you get to spend the rest of your life making a person happy and vice versa. In any case, good or bad, once that lesson is learned or the purpose is complete, that person simply drifts away. Their storyline has ended and another chapter begins. I have no proof to back this up. I don’t think it’s good or bad, it just is. It’s a way I can wrap my head around losing people.
So, what did I learn from Mike? I learned that Sharon is a gracious and loving person, that she is strong and resilient and that she loves with her whole heart. I think that’s true of her children, too, Michael, Lisa and Dan. I learned that my family can be counted on in good times and bad. I learned that one family’s tragedy can be another family’s miracle. I am also reminded that every second of every day is a gift. And today I wonder: what will I do with that gift? Maybe Mike’s last lesson to me, and a lot of other people, is to find something that makes me proud and happy and then, actually do it. Stop wasting time and make every minute count. To find that higher love I keep thinking of.
*Quotes from Higher Love by Steve Winwood