When you look death right in the eye, your perspective changes. --Kevin Haug
Well, perhaps I didn't coin the phrase, but I did a Google search and didn't find any attribution. Let it stand for the time being.
I said this a week ago today standing and visiting with one of my church members who just recently lost her husband to cancer. Life has changed substantially for her--as it does for most everyone who loses a spouse.
For, you see, when people join together in family units, they take on roles. They take on responsibilities. A pattern develops as they go through life performing a sort of dance. One may cook while the other cleans. One may handle the discipline while the other handles the nurture and care. One may handle the finances while the other handles upkeep and maintenance on the building. One may handle the indoor chores while the other handles the outdoor stuff. One may handle roughhousing with the kids while the other handles the delicate matters that arise with interpersonal relationships. Most unconsciously ease into such roles, and the dance becomes seamless. Oftentimes, folks don't even think about such matters. They are just doing it, and it works.
The death of a spouse destroys all those roles and responsibilities. Suddenly, one spouse is left to take care of all such matters. Life changes, and it changes drastically. And when you've walked your spouse through that dark valley and stood by his or her side when she draws that final breath, not only is your life going to change, so is your perspective about life.
Suddenly, things that once seemed major are minor. Things that used to cause angst and worry are meaningless. Listening to coworkers and friends gripe about not having anything to do on Friday evening or how someone is making rude comments on their Facebook wall become like nails on a chalkboard.
"Really?" you ask yourself. "Is this what consumes your thoughts? Is this all you have to complain about in life?"
When you deal with life and death matters, such items become trivial...meaningless...a waste of mental energy.
There are more important things in life. Unfortunately, death has a way of bringing those things to the front.
I've walked with more than a few folks through this process. I've stood by the bedside of members who died. I've looked death in the eye more than a few times. Every time gives me pause. Every time gives me an opportunity to rethink my own priorities. Every time I commend someone's spirit to God, on the way home, I cannot wait to grab my children, hold them tight, hug my wife, and spend some time being a better husband and dad. I worry less about politics and natural disasters and how the Dallas Cowboys are playing (yes, I am aware of the link between the last two of those items). Such matters are out of my control. Such matters will always be around. Such matters really matter less when one considers they have little impact on one's life--at least compared to the impact one's family, friends, and relationship with God has on one's life.
Such matters become paramount. All the rest fades away.
Unfortunately, you have to look death in the face for this to happen. I hate to see people whose lives are thrown into upheaval because of such a thing, but I rejoice when they hold onto hope; when their faith is made stronger; and when they receive a new perspective on life.
When you look death in the face, it changes your perspective.
Hopefully, for the better.