Are you sad?…Yes

My father-in-law Jack passed away a month ago. It was a good death if you know what I mean. It was on his terms, without suffering and surrounded by friends and family. He lived a full and healthy life for 83 years. I never knew him as frail or senile. He was well educated and an engaging conversation partner. He aged well.

He woke up one morning with a severe headache that we learned later was caused by a “bleeder” in the brain. We opted for surgery to alleviate the pressure and hopefully turn it around. He never really recovered.

He soon lost the ability to swallow and became weaker as the week went on. After much discussion with the family and his doctor, Jack decided he didn’t want to have a feeding tube inserted into his stomach. We all knew what that meant. He was deciding that it was a good time to die.

We transferred him to a hospice where he would spend the last four days of his life in comfortable surroundings along with regular visits from those who loved him. At one time my sister-in-law, his daughter, asked him if he understood what was happening. He nodded, yes. She then asked him if he was sad. Again, he nodded yes.

That has stuck with me for some reason. I know he was sad not from regret but from joy. He was leaving behind a wonderful life. His family was thriving and his marriage was fulfilling. He was sad from having to relinquish a life well lived. If only all sadness could be that way!

I’m not sure I am writing this down the way I’m thinking it through.  He was ready to go. He was sad to leave and we were sad to see him go. But in the end the sorrow was from joy not regret, and our grief morphed into strength not despair.

I hope at the end, I too am sad. Sad because I was leaving a life that was a giggle and gas- an adventure of love and laughter. Sad because the depth of joy made it so.

In your opinion and experience, what are some of the things that makes life truly wonderful? Where else can joy bring sadness? I would love to read any of your comments below.

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Jeff Vankooten is a speaker and author focusing on the power of resilience to effectively engage the challenges of change. He helps leaders, businesses, and organizations develop the skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly unpredictable business environment.
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