Death, Dying and Mary Jim

She spoke with the sad voice of experience. “Joanie, sometimes death is sweet and sometimes death is hard. Your daddy’s death was sweet.”

She was right. Mary Jim was my stepmother and when she spoke those words, it was April 1989. Funeral home personnel were wheeling Dad’s body out the front door. Dad’s death was sweet. We were all there with him. It was the way he would have wanted it. Over and over he had said, “Death is a part of life. When my time comes, I want you to let me go.” He was right.

Last week we all attended Mary Jim’s funeral. And I thought of her words on the night Dad died. One of Mary Jim’s grandchildren said, “She’s been waiting for this a long time.” And indeed she had. She had been in a nursing home for years, and had not really recognized any of us for a long time. I am sure for Mary Jim, death was sweet.

And of course, as with any death, I was reminded of other losses — and I remembered so well another day in 1988 when we buried our brother. Shocked, dazed zombies – we stood around Mary Jim and Dad’s house, the church and the cemetery. The preacher’s wise and honest prayer began, “Lord we don’t want to be here, but we are here.” Those days were the hardest of my entire life. Mel had chosen to take his own life at the age of 36. And we are all still reeling from that day, I think. I remember thinking we just had to keep breathing. And somehow we did.

So Mary Jim was right. Sometimes death is sweet and sometimes death is hard. I am thankful for her wisdom to comfort me.

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About jta

South Carolina grandmother who loves to write, dance, and visit with friends and family.
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12 Responses to Death, Dying and Mary Jim

  1. MiMi says:

    Love the wisdom of both your father and Miss Mary Jim. And I don’t know of anyone who isn’t still reeling after a suicide in the family, Dear Joan. My heart goes out to you. …Beautiful post.
    .-= MiMi´s last blog ..Teaching Your Kids To Cook =-.

  2. Joan Adams says:

    Thank you, Mimi. Isn’t it interesting how the words of the seniors in our lives don’t sound nearly as wise until they are gone. When Mary Jim said that to me, I was sitting beside her – she in her favorite chair, me on a little stool. We were holding hands. Just getting ourselves through the events of the hour. I don’t even remember where anyone else was at that moment, but I held on to those words. and they echoed at the time of her death — over and over — as if she was saying “get this, Joanie — get it!”…. I think I finally understand in a deeper way.

  3. Joan Adams says:

    Thank you, Betty. We did survive, didn’t we? whew!

  4. MiMi says:

    Me, too. At another time, I would have found the words of little comfort. Age does bring wisdom. Or is it that it takes that long to choose a “higher learning”? I don’t know, but there is an admirable strength in your father’s and step-mother’s words.
    .-= MiMi´s last blog ..Teaching Your Kids To Cook =-.

  5. Joan Adams says:

    Yep! I think maybe I grew up between 50 and 60! I wonder….

  6. Joan Adams says:

    Thank you, Nancy. for sure we are still in survival mode,but we have managed to survive for over 20 years now. Life is not like we thought it would be, but we have a “new normal”, right? I really don’t like that phrase and I think it’s overused, but I sure do understand it. and yes, I hope we are all making a difference. for sure.

  7. bevspaper says:

    Joan, this is such a lovely post. Sincere and from your heart. When I was young I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate your Dad’s and Mary Jim’s words but as you and MiMi have said we get wiser as we mature. The very first time I felt that death could be sweet was when my Grandma passed. I couldn’t find a reason to be sad. Oh I knew I would miss her and I still do but all I could think of was that she was in Heaven where she had been moving towards all of her wonderful life. Hers was a sweet death, indeed.

    When we lost Mom in 2008 that was a sweet death too. Cancer had ravaged her in such a terrible way and so as I held her hand as she took her last breath and watched the pain leave her face and peace spread over her – there was a sense of sweetness and thankfulness that she would not suffer one more minute.

    Bless you, Joan and your family!
    .-= bevspaper´s last blog ..Are There Signs Of White Buffalo Calf Woman’s Return? =-.

  8. Joan Adams says:

    Thank you, Bev. I agree. We have to be older, I think, to understand much about death at all. And most of the time, I think, death is sweet. It’s those horrendous shocking ones that tear us to pieces.
    I do understand about the peace in your mom’s death, too. There are times in this life when death is a relief-both for the patient and the family. But we have to have been close to that kind of death to understand that kind of feeling. I am sure that sounds cruel to the younger folk. Perhaps like so many other life lessons, we don’t understand them until we need to understand them.

  9. mshomeec says:

    Oh, Joan! This is indeed a treasure! Am sharing with friends! Deeply touching, your writing reveals a beautiful way to look at death…and life. May we, as Dad would say, “Live until we die!”…finding joy and savoring the wonderful things in each day! br

  10. Joan Adams says:

    Thank you, Kate. I have not seen Todd’s post, so off to see that one. I used to get all his posts via email but that has stopped for some reason.

  11. mukunda22 says:

    Thanks Joan. Death is still in the closet in our culture. People are afraid to die, so it becomes one of those unspeakable topics.

    Have you read Todd Silva’s account in his last blog post of the passing of his beloved dog Licorace who died 12/24/09? Funny, because I thought, and so did Todd, that I was OK with death until Mukunda’s passing. And as DDDelaney says, our animals teach us to go deeper down into these issues than we normally would.

    I lost many friends when I was young. I thought I took death in stride. Maybe, as you say, the full impact of all of these things happen when we grow older–and wiser.

  12. Joan Adams says:

    What a nice thing to say! Thank you, Susan! Guess I really don’t think of myself that way, but if anyone can garner some good from my life experience, I am thrilled — and that’s a fact. Like Nancy said, we all just keep trying to make a difference somehow.

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