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Harris Blackwood: Talking about that great taboo: death
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

We do a lot of role-playing when we are kids. I remember in my kindergarten class we had the “housekeeping” center. It was a part of our room that had a little wooden stove, refrigerator and sink. We also had a doll bed with an assortment of baby dolls.

We would take time to play “house” or “mamas and daddies.”

Outside, at home, we would play lots of things like army or cowboys and Indians. Sometimes we would turn a game of chase into cops and robbers.

There were many things that happen in life that we, as children, would re-enact. I don’t know if kids still do that, but it was fun.

There is a part of life that we don’t prepare for and that is death. It is the most inevitable event in life, but we don’t like to talk about it or think about it. We don’t even like to say it.

When I first got into the news business, we had the Associated Press Stylebook. If someone’s life on this planet came to an end there was one word we could use and that was “dead.”

I don’t guess TV news outfits own a stylebook because they use terms like “passed” or “passed away.”

A college football player died the other day and I heard a TV newscaster say that the player “passed.” I was waiting to hear if he caught, kicked or punted.

We may never be a mama or a daddy, some may never get past childhood, but as the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes put it, there is a time to be born and a time to die.

For the past month and a half, we have been helping with the care of my wife’s Aunt Nancy. A couple of years ago, she was found to have cancer. In February, it came back with a vengeance.

Last Monday, she died. I was with her when she breathed her last breath. I was talking with a friend of mine about the experience. I was trying to find the descriptive term, he suggested “sacred.” I don’t think there is a better word.

She wanted to die at home, and did. We gathered around her bed and I prayed. I claimed the words of the Apostle Paul, who said in Second Corinthians (or Two Corinthians, if you’re Donald Trump) that to be absent from the body is to be present with Christ.

I also claimed those words in both the Old and New Testament that the Lord will never leave us or forsake us. I believe that Nancy was never alone as she transitioned from this life to the next.

When I finished my prayer, a peaceful look came over her face. They say that the last thing to stop in your dying body is your hearing. I don’t know if she heard it, but I felt that those words did not bounce off the ceiling.

I have a lot I want to live for. I have grown children, especially one that carries my name, who I love tremendously. One of them has given us a grandson that has brought me a massive amount of joy.

But I have talked about death. I’m not ready yet, but I made the right preparations. It’s OK to talk about it, especially with those who are reaching the end of this part of the journey.

You need to listen to them, but you also need to give them a little verbal package of your love that will go with them when they leave this world.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.
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