What I’ve Learned About Death and Dying

Dogs are amazing creatures and my mutt, Hank, is no exception.  

In the first week of July 2019, Karen’s condition had deteriorated to the point where all of us involved thought this would be our final goodbye. Hank also became aware that something wasn’t quite right in the house and his demeanor changed. On July 3rd, I went to the back door like I always do first thing in the morning to let him out to do his business.  But this day was different. He went to the threshold, stopped, sniffed the air a few times, then came back in the house without going outside. 

I can only speculate, since I’m not a dog, nor do I pretend to understand how dogs thinks.  But I do know that his behavior coincided with what I was feeling.  Death seemed present and imminent, like it was surrounding my home, seeking for whom it may devour. Something was amiss. 

Over the course of exactly one year (she was diagnosed November 02, 2018. She died November 02, 2019) I had a front row seat to observe Death and the tricks It tried to employ up to the point where the number of her days were complete.  I took notes.  Here’s a bit of what I learned. 

As a person of faith, I believe death is the final spirit that holds any remaining power over me.  Everyone I know and love will eventually die, myself included. When we got the bad news on Friday, November 02, 2018, I made a decision that day.  It was a decision Karen misinterpreted, because she immediately asked me why I didn’t seem upset. Worry has the tendency to be intimidated by Peace.  One of them will eventually win.  I told her it was my choice to decide which one will be victorious. 

Throughout the year, my decision to cooperate with Peace would be challenged almost daily.  Death didn’t seem near yet, but Death commands an army of negative spirits. The chief of these spirits is Fear.  When Death gets directly involved, Fear volunteers to go to work offering the only thing it possesses; Fear.  In this way, Fear is singular in its threats against me.  As a person of faith, I possess other weaponry that I can call up in my defense. I have Love, Joy, Patience, Kindness that are glad to help me take on Fear at any time I need. 

In the last six days of her life, Karen was unconscious and unresponsive.  I knew Death was close by.  I felt it stirring.  On the third night of those six, I had five dreams involving the death, including the death of Hank.  But that next morning, I went into her room and sat in the chair that many of you sat in to say your goodbyes. I told Death that even though it would eventually complete Its assignment, none of his other troops would be allowed. Fear, Worry, Doubt, Anxiety and Panic would not be welcome in her room or in my house. 

When the Number of Days were fulfilled early Saturday morning, Death took her body away. I went in to the living room where Hank lay.  I asked him if he wanted to go say goodbye to Mom. He looked at me, got up quickly off the floor and ran in to her room, jumped up on her bed and laid his head on her legs. 

He was saying goodbye. 

He seemed to understand my decision.  He and I were not giving in to Fear, even though the grief process was beginning.   

12 Replies to “What I’ve Learned About Death and Dying”

  1. This touched my heart and I felt that way as I lay next to my mother as she left this earth. Your words comforted me as I come to close this second Xmas without her.

  2. Kevin, I am so sorry for your loss. This will be a years of ‘firsts’. First Holidays without Karen. First spring, summer… Thank you for sharing your personal journey.
    Your story reminds me that a sailor cannot change the direction of the wind.. but can determine the set of his sails.
    Trudy and I wish you peace this Holiday season. Scratch Hank’s ears for me.

  3. Wow, Kevin. What amazing truths the Father has shown you! This is an amazing teaching which I think many others in similar situations will benefit from. Thank you for your choice to choose peace so we could all learn from the insights you gained. Much love, Kathy

  4. I’ve known you the biggest part of my life, I haven’t spent time around you in many many years. Your words on every post touch me.. this one especially.
    This Christmas Day brings an anniversary for my family, 30 years ago Christmas my Dad passed.
    I’m so sorry for your loss Kevin

  5. Brought me to tears, as I think of my best friend’s mother who passed this morning. We were convinced we had a few months…cancer gave us a few weeks…he’ll want to read this later. I wish could find as much faith as you’ve discovered on a journey that tests your beliefs to their breaking point. But I’m taking solace in your words and the wisdom/perspective you’ve come by…

  6. The love I feel because of your sharing of this journey surprises me a bit. Each experience you share not only shows me the hope and strength that the journey we all will experience has dignity, but also gives me faith. It also is a blessing for all of us to read and learn from. Thank you, Kevin, for this immense giving…..you and Karen have shown us that we are all beloved. So are you. Christmas Peace….

  7. Thank you Kevin! Sharing how proactive you were in dealing with the emotions is really helpful. What you did was simple, but oh so hard.

    1. What an impactful lesson. Thank you for writing down what you learned through your experience. I liked how you explained death as the last spirit to battle and fear being its minion. I liked the picture you painted of the fruits of the spirit being weapons against this final spirit and explaining this as a battle. You hear the word battle when anyone talks about cancer but your account of your last days with Karen really give the total picture not just the abbreviated or stereotypical version that one word brings. Thinking of you!

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