What Death Taught Me About Life, Part 1 Of 3


Two summers ago. We are tired, but relieved and happy. We think the worst is behind us.

We’re at a funeral. Celebrating the long life and gentle passing of a loved one. We don’t know it yet…but in two months we will say goodbye again, and it will be harder and crueler and much less timely.

This picture sits on my desk, a reminder of how quickly things change. Because if death teaches you one thing, it’s that you aren’t entitled to anything. And each day is its own gift:

3 deaths in quick succession. First came the shock, then the acute pain. Long silences and numb birthdays. Children’s books about death. Sleepless nights repeating their simple lines….”Where are you, now that you are gone?’

This picture is my ‘before’.

  • Before I stopped the long stressful commute surrounded by cars worth more than my salary.
  • Before I finally heard the way I was talking to my husband after a year of long hours and toxic stress. The short, clipped tone, bordering on annoyance and anger in response to any innocuous question or request.
  • Before I recognized that normal parenting stress isn’t the same as fighting hopeless tears when my daughter exerted her extraordinary (and completely normal) toddler will.

Before I broke wide open. All illusions of ‘I’ll do better tomorrow’ washed away. Death made clear there are no guarantees on tomorrow.

So what then?

Written by Kerry Makin-Byrd, PhD