Another Death in the Family

A family get-together was supposed to be happening at our house today.

It’s been canceled or rescheduled. I don’t know which.

That’s probably just as well. There’s a winter weather advisory here, and a winter storm warning over the county line north and west. Which here in Sauk Centre is about a mile and eight miles, respectively.

We’re expecting between a hundredth and a tenth of an inch of ice and maybe three inches of snow. And sleet in Sunday’s early hours. This is why I prefer sincerely cold weather. And that’s another topic.

Noon, Christmas Eve

What threw a spanner in the works, scotched, disrupted and discombobulated our plans was a death in the family.

Around noon (we’re in the UTC -6 time zone) on Christmas Eve, my wife’s brother’s wife had a heart attack.

They were both at their home. He applied CPR, an ambulance took her to a hospital, and she died.

My wife got a call from a kinswoman a couple hours later.

When the conversation was over, my wife made more calls. By that evening, I figure everyone who was near their telephone or online connection knew what had happened. Our family’s grapevine is fairly efficient.

One of my brothers-in-law was with the now-widower by the time this household got the news. For that, I’m glad. He, the widower, is and will be grieving. A lot.

This will affect family plans for the next week or so, probably beyond. How, I’ve no idea. Nobody does, likely enough.

Oddly enough, I’m not experiencing emotional responses to my sister-in-law’s death. Apart from part of a holiday song playing on a loop in my head. And insomnia. Experience suggests that the feelings will come when my brain’s failsafes go back to standby mode.

As I said, this is going to be interesting.

Death Happens

People die. That’s been an inescapable fact throughout history.

Folks have learned to be resigned to death, we’ve learned how to delay death.

But somehow, it just doesn’t feel right.

And small wonder, since we’re made “in the image of God.”

And that’s almost another topic. (Genesis 1:2628; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 355379, 10061014; “Gaudium et Spes,” 18)

I don’t look forward to my death, or anyone else’s. It’s a bit like the feelings I had about finals week, back in my college days.

Like everyone else, I’ll experience my particular judgment after I die: a sort of final evaluation. (Catechism, 10211037, 10421050)

I’ve talked about that before. (September 30, 2018 ; March 11, 2018)

Grief and Hope

I have no idea why my sister-in-law — I think that’s the right term — died on Christmas Eve.

It feels monumentally unfair.

But as I’ve said in another context, God’s God, I’m not, and I’m okay with that. Grudgingly, sometimes, and that’s yet another topic.

I also don’t know how I’d provide support or comfort to my brother-in-law, or if I’ll have the opportunity.

There’s more to say, but I’m not up to sorting out ideas and arranging words on that topic. Those topics. Not today.

Maybe these quotes will do for now. Or maybe not.

“…The centre of every man’s existence is a dream. Death, disease, insanity, are merely material accidents, like toothache or a twisted ankle. That these brutal forces always besiege and often capture the citadel does not prove that they are the citadel….”
(“Twelve Types,” G. K. Chesterton (1906) via Google Books)

“Life is eternal; and love is immortal; and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.”
(From Carly Simon, Fr. Bede Jarrett, William Penn, or Rossiter W. Raymond.1)

Or these, from St. Augustine of Hippo and the Bible.

“Of necessity we must be sorrowful when those whom we love leave us in death. Although we know that they have not left us behind forever but only gone ahead of us, still when death seizes our loved one, our loving hearts are saddened by death itself. … Our weakness weights us down, but faith bears us up. We sorrow over the human condition, but find our healing in the divine promise.”
(Sermon 172, St. Augustine of Hippo (ca. 400) via Universe of Faith)

“Do not avoid those who weep,
but mourn with those who mourn.”
(Sirach 7:35)

“The number of their days seems great
if it reaches a hundred years.
“Like a drop of water from the sea and a grain of sand,
so are these few years among the days of eternity.
“That is why the Lord is patient with them
and pours out his mercy on them.”
(Sirach 18:911)

“But as it is written:
‘What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,
and what has not entered the human heart,
what God has prepared for those who love him,'”
(1 Corinthians 2:9)

“I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God].
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.'”
(Revelation 21:34)

Related posts:

1 “Life is eternal…” is from the fourth track of the Have You Seen Me Lately Carly Simon album and a poem by Fr. Bede Jarrett; which he said he copied from something William Penn wrote. Or it’s from Rossiter W. Raymond’s “Death is Only an Horizon.”

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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4 Responses to Another Death in the Family

  1. Melinda Wells says:

    I’m so very sorry, Brian. I will pray for her soul and will ask Our Blessed Mother to intercede for those she left behind. His Peace & Blessings…Melinda

  2. So far, when it comes to death, I feel like some sort of soldier who’s always going on about morale even with blood obviously showing on his hands. Discomforting image, yes, but I seem to have grown over the years this habit of looking for the life, the good in the struggles we’re all bound to take thanks to human nature, and hey, blood’s a mark of life, yeah? Thanks very much for leading me to this post and helping me reflect on these things, then, Mr. Gill, and I hope your sister-in-law is up there in heaven.

    • Blood is a mark of life, yes! And thank you for the hope that my sister-in-law is in heaven.

      “A mark of life” reminded me of something my father-in-law said: ‘pain lets you know you’re alive’. There is wisdom in that. Although I think avoiding pain often makes sense, and that’s another topic.

Thanks for taking time to comment!