Understanding our own Mortality

It is sometimes hard to understand why and it is one of the greatest mysteries as to when, where and how. We all know we have to face the reality of our own mortality and must eventually make peace and accept the inevitable that we too will die one day. Life is unpredictable for most of us who are blessed to be born and live our life as God intended us to. I sometimes wonder what it is like for someone who is diagnosed with a terminal illness and is given a finite time to live. In essence they are aware now as advised by medical doctors that they will die. Is it any easier for them now that the mystery is gone to some degree? Does knowing you will die in a certain time frame make it any easier or does knowing make you feel more anxious and depressed? Does someone in this situation start to feel sorry for them self and lose hope or do they try to manage to smile and live what ever amount of time they have left? It’s really hard to know unless you are in that situation. I also wonder what it is like for someone who had been told they would die in a relatively short time frame but wound up beating the illness and making a full recovery. What is it like for them now that they had cheated death? Do they feel invincible or do they still wonder if they will eventually run out of time and will die as they had been told?

Does knowing allow you to be prepared and try to capture the remaining moments in a more special way. The make a wish foundation allows for children who are diagnosed with a terminal illness the chance to live a dream before they die which is very special and heartwarming. Although it is very difficult to face the end for someone we love we try to live and accept the situation as best we can for the sake of the person who is going through it and we try to support them as best we can and love them and hold them for as long as we can holding back our tears.

I believe when it is our time to die we will instinctively know it and hopefully we will have experienced a full life filled with love, happiness, joy, success, friendship and a loving family. We know that the hardest part in coming to terms with this is that we will no longer be an integral part of the lives of others who mean so much to us. If we have children we will worry for their care and their future. If we have to die when our children are still young then it is a tremendous burden we take with us and how can we die in peace with so many unknowns. I believe the younger we are when we die the more we feel that we had not been given the chance to live and do all that we wanted and hoped to do. I feel for young children who die so young never really experiencing life. It must be such a heartbreak to the parents when they lose a child. How can a child be so brave knowing they will die? I have seen children in the cancer ward undergoing chemotherapy treatments but they still manage to smile and are happy when their family and friends visit and bring them a present as they are still kids though they are faced with such a hard thing to deal with. A part of me cries for them as I realize they are most likely going to die young.

I will never forget attending a funeral of a friend’s baby daughter. She had just celebrated her second birthday but had lived all her days under nurses care due to a seizure disorder. Her parents were very loving and caring and so devoted to their baby girl. It was the hardest thing seeing the little white baby coffin and the precious family pictures. I cried many times that day as I tried to offer words of consolation to my friend and his wife. The tragedy affected me so much that I had to get away so I went to the happiest place on earth. I went to Disney World to try to find a sense of happiness as I felt so sad for my friend and his family after losing their beautiful little baby girl. It was such a heart break to me as I was good friends of the family.

The tragedies that surround death are also heart breaking. We hear it every day or sometimes come upon it as we drive past an accident scene. It really makes you wonder why. It just seems so hard to comprehend how one moment someone is saying good bye to their loved ones and the next they are fighting for their life or are pronounced dead at an accident scene. They had no way of knowing this would be their fate until the moment up until it happened. What could be going through their mind at that instant in time.

What goes through the mind of someone who decides they had enough and feels their only way out is suicide? It is very sad when someone feels so alone and in despair that the only way they will escape their pain or hopeless situation is by taking their life. The hardest thing to come to terms with is the loss of a loved one to suicide. I have tried to put my father’s tragic death into proper perspective and I feel very sad of the circumstances surrounding it as I wonder if the outcome could have been different if I had sat and spoke with him that fateful day. I try to find solace but a part of me feels the pain that he could not express to us. I have gone through so many emotions and feel guilty that I wasn’t there for my father in his greatest time of need.

I also felt that way when I visited my mother at the hospital when she lost her will to live and just withered away. I tried to be strong and made my daily visits to see her even though I felt the situation was bleak. It is so very difficult facing the reality that you are about to lose someone very special to you. You try to believe that everything will be ok and you hope and pray for that but you know in your heart that you are about to lose your loved one. When I found out my mother had died I just cried and cried and I really never did get to say goodbye as I had wished to. I visited her every day but she was not aware of our visits. On occasion though I did feel her faintly squeeze my hand but I could tell her body was so weak and it was just a matter of time. My mom was only 50 years old when she passed.

I have experienced death of loved ones through the years and as I spend time with my wife and son I try to hold on to these precious moments and enjoy them because they are fleeting. Our son is special needs and is autistic and he has difficulty in social situations. My main emphasis is to spend as much time with him as I possibly can and instill in him the strength and courage he will need to help him find himself and live his life with a sense of hope and promise. I want him to be his own person, confident, happy and able to take care of himself. I prepare now for the time when I won’t be there and the peace of mind I look for is that I have enough in life insurance to protect my son and wife in the event of my death.

Of course we feel we will be around for a while and we avoid any such discussions of death and life insurance but the reality is that we need to plan for our family because we just never know. I have lost two wonderful friends this past year and was in complete shock when I learned of their untimely deaths. I certainly did not expect to hear such news nor did their families but sadly it was true and I just felt so sad. I lost a friend who was about to celebrate his 40th birthday in a couple of months and he died in his sleep leaving behind a wife and a 3 year old daughter. I sometimes wonder why we have to endure such emotional pain in our lives and why we have to lose our loved ones so unexpectedly. Another friend who I had lost touch with but considered a good friend had died of a heart attack. He was only 35 years old and was planning to marry later that year but it was his time to go. It just makes you think and wonder when the ride will end for us when we see it come to an end for friends we once talked with and had good times with.

I remember the first time I was touched by the death of a friend. I was 17 years old and I had just found out from a high school friend by telephone that one of our class mates had died in a horrible car accident while visiting a college campus for an interview to attend in the fall. I was devastated and will never forget it for as long as I live. Every now and then I think about my poor friend Scott who died way to young. He had so much promise and hopes for a bright future but it was not to be.

This is a very sad story to share and I did not know the people involved but I remember hearing it in the news and it was very tragic and it was something that affected me that I talked of it when I had visited a psychologist years later after dealing with my mother’s death. I consider myself a very caring person both sensitive and strong but this really made me upset and depressed even though I was not a relative or friend of the families involved.

We all think of our wedding day as the most exciting and happiest of occasions and for virtually everyone it is but in life there are tragedies that occur and sometimes they occur on a wedding day also. The bride and groom had just taken their vows and were now husband and wife and they were now enroute to their wedding reception in Long Beach Long Island and were making the turn into the parking lot where the reception was to be held when a young driver of 21 was drag racing down the roadway and collided head on with the limousine. It was April 3, 1987 and the tragic results was that the groom and his brother, the best man were killed at the scene and the bride died later on at the hospital. The limo driver and the bride’s sister were both injured but they survived. The driver of the speeding car also survived but he was responsible for the tragic deaths of the bride, groom and best man. It was one of the saddest stories I had ever learned about and I could not help but wonder why such a tragedy had to occur on a day when all was supposed to be joyful and beautiful.

I feel deeply connected to my family and friends and I am living and doing all I can for my son hoping that I will be there for him to share in his ups and downs, his successes and celebrate alongside him, my wife and family when he graduates and goes on to college. I don’t know what the future holds but I must live my life with the belief that I will be there for my wife and son for as long as I can and hopefully will be there to see our son graduate college, marry his beautiful bride and welcome a baby into the world. This is what I live for as I start to take stock of my life and wonder what the future holds.

So as I relate all this I realize that life is not perfect but it is a wonderful gift we have been given and although we may not always feel happy we should live each day with wonder and joy in our heart because we really do not know what tomorrow will bring and we must appreciate that we are alive and with our family and friends amongst us which is truly wonderful because it will not always be this way. We must truly appreciate it now when we have it. I remember my parents and how they loved me and made me always feel good and now that they are gone I only have memories which may be distant but they are still in my heart. I am well aware I will die one day so I will try my best to live and do all I can as I do not want regrets when it is my time to say goodbye.

As I write this I have just learned of the sad news of the passing of Whitney Houston who was a tremendous woman and very talented singer and I feel heartbroken. She was just 48 years old and was planning on attending the Grammy awards show. She will be missed and I’m sure will be honored at the event. My prayers and thoughts are with her family at this most difficult time.

I love you Maria, Matty and all who are special to me.

Edward D. Iannielli III