#Death is one of the few things in our lives that is certain.
We are all guaranteed death in this lifetime – our own and that of those we love. But that guarantee doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.
Our proximity to death often determines our response to it…at least partially. How close are you to the death - emotionally, relationally, or otherwise? How much does the loss affect you and your day to day life? It seems the closer we are to seeing death and its effects on people we know and love, the tougher it is to deal with.
I hope and pray that my response to death is always… appropriate. Not perfect. Not emotionless. But APPROPRIATE. I hope it reflects my #faith in God, but also shows patience with myself by allowing grace to grieve.
We know that #grief looks differently for us all… Maybe it’s temporary tears. Maybe it’s solitude and isolation. Maybe it’s anger. Or anything in between. The grieving process is not linear, and we have to navigate it as it comes. There’s no right way to do it, but I suppose there is a wrong way. We should be careful not allow grief to hinder our personal progress or become a detriment to ourselves or others.
But generally speaking: grieving is healthy… NECESSARY, even… as long as it’s GOOD GRIEF.
“Good grief” is an expression or exclamation of irritation, frustration, or some other negative emotion. But in this sense, I want us to experience and express good grief as an appropriate response to navigating death. And let me be clear - death is not only meant in the literal sense as the physical end of a person's life. We may also experience the death of a situation, job, or relationship, and even that type of death may result in grief. BUT irrespective of the type of loss we suffer, let’s always strive for good grief.
When we can focus on the happy memories or positive lessons after a loss, despite our emotional state, THAT is good grief.
Many of us have experienced literal death to some extent, especially over the last year or two. In a short 30+ years of life, I’ve lost grandparents, uncles/aunts, cousins, and even a best friend. You quickly learn that our loved ones are ever passing through this human experience. We should be #intentional about maximizing the time we have and take away something from our time with them.
It’s important to also recognize that our own journeys are fleeting, so we must make the most our time and our efforts, as well. I often ask myself: what am I here for, and what am I doing to pursue that #purpose? Am I positively impacting someone else’s life or has my existence strictly been for my benefit alone? Who and how am I serving? It helps me realize my life, no matter how long or short, is not my own.
“Purpose: how you use your experiences, talents, and passions to better the lives of those around you.”
- L. Peterson
Recently, (one of) my favorite uncles, Uncle Willie, passed away after a LONG, tenacious battle with cancer. (Heavy on the “one of” because I have too many uncles to publicly declare a favorite. 😊) As we usually do after the death of a loved one, our #family gathered to reminisce about the good ole’ days. We laughed, and we cried. We told stories and reflected on the time spent and memories made before we said our final goodbye.
As I continued to reflect over the past couple of months, navigating the grief, I sought the lessons I could take away from Uncle Willie's death. A common theme persisted throughout all the stories and memories: my Uncle Willie was the epitome of STRENGTH and RESILIENCE. Maybe that was his purpose, because it was certainly the example he set for his family and friends.
Uncle Willie was a beast of an athlete. Naturally muscular and ridiculously strong. My dad, the baby brother, tells a funny story about how my grandparents thought he was malnourished as a baby, only to find out Uncle Willie was stealing his bottle at night. 😊 (That extra milk during his toddler years is probably the reason for his tremendous strength and muscular build!)
But Uncle Willie’s strength wasn’t limited to his physique. It was probably most evident in his personality and character. His voice projected power. He had a look that would immediately get all of the mischievous cousins in line in an instant. Although he possessed all this power, he rarely had to use it. He commanded respect simply by his mere presence. Even when his body began to deteriorate in an attempt to fight the vicious cancer, he exhibited strength and power.
Beyond that, he was kind to all he encountered, loving in his own non-affectionate way. And he was an honorable man. Oh, but he was ridiculously stubborn! LOL! Once his mind was made up about something, there was no changing it. He was fierce in his convictions and never complained (“because it wouldn’t do any good anyway)”.
Uncle Willie battled cancer so long, I sometimes forgot he was literally fighting for his life. He refused to talk about it. When I’d ask him how he was feeling, he ALWAYS said, “I’m alright.” Twelve years of appointments, injections, surgeries, radiation, pills, ringing the bell, “the cancer is back,” and so on and so forth.
But his faith never wavered. He never cowered to any diagnosis. He pushed. He fought. He remained strong through it all. And again, his strength wasn’t just physical... He remained mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually strong until his last breath.
And while his death was painful for us, it was freeing for him. He made us all incredibly proud, not just in how he lived, but also how he died.
Since his childhood being physically superior to anyone he encountered, to his domineering personality as a fierce protector of his family, to his tenacious battle with this god-awful disease, Willie Pruitt is defined by #strength and #resilience. He defied the odds. He remained positive. And he kept the faith, believing, despite the evidence to the contrary, that he would beat this thing.
As I think about this, I’m inspired. I’m inspired by how he died, but I’m even more inspired by how he LIVED. His dash (1958-2021) exemplified resilience and living life to the fullest. Despite the loss of Uncle Willie’s physical presence, we have a lot to take away from his example of how he lived.
So as I navigate my good grief, the question those of us who knew and loved Uncle Willie should ask - how will we now LIVE? What will define our dash? How do we live by his example to become better versions of ourselves? Because I’m sure that’s what he would want. And how do we make sure that our lives inspire, empower, encourage, or otherwise benefit someone else’s? We must ask ourselves:
Are we living our lives IN and ON purpose?
2021 brought about death for our family, which led to grief. I’ve suffered other losses that I’m grieving, as well. But I choose good grief. I choose to be encouraged, inspired, hopeful, and excited even, about what’s to come. You should too.
Death and the subsequent grief is difficult to navigate. But we must…
So as we embark on this new calendar year, let’s accept the complexity of death and all that it brings, navigate our good grief, and focus on our own “dash.”
2021 is dead; it's gone...but we will forever have the memories, lessons, highs, and lows from this past year. Let’s allow the past year(s) to fuel our good grief towards living in and on purpose. That’s my primary focus for the year – being INTENTIONAL about what I do and how I do it – to create the life I desire for myself AND others. Will you join me?
I implore you to maximize your time on this earth by loving fearlessly, serving selflessly, and living purposefully.
…like my Uncle Willie did.
Rest up, Unc.