Punctuation on Death and Dying

Richard and I recently lost a dear friend whose compassion and grace affected our lives forever.  Though we hadn’t seen or chatted with  him in years, we already miss him.  We called him our Gentle Shepherd.  So here’s to you, Charles.

Death is such an anathama to human beings.  We see it all around us–in grass, in flowers, in family pets, a part of life and sin on Planet Earth.  Yet we detest it.  There are times when death is the kindest wish for a suffering patient, yet we rebel against it.

The poet Dylan Thomas wrote of his father’s passing, Do not go gentle in that goodnight.  Fight!  Fight!  As a youth I felt exactly the same way.  To me, death seemed like a form of “giving up.”  Surely the person I loved could have tried harder to live, could have fought longer.  I understand a young friend of mine who says she’s angry at her mom for dying.  I’ve known wives furious at their spouses for leaving in death.  Perhaps that is just a part of the grieving process.  I don’t know.

As a former English teacher and as a writer of an undisclosed age, I’ve learned the importance of using the correct punctuation in a sentence as well as in death.  Comfort comes to those left behind by how they punctuate their loved one’s life sentence.

A naive youth punctuates the loss of a loved one with an exclamation point.  This is all there is!

The agnostic describes death as a question mark.  Is this all there is?

The atheist places a period at the end of a life.  It’s all over.  Send in the clowns.

I used to consider a comma the breaking point of death–the division of two connecting thoughts.  If separation from my loved one were short perhaps a comma would do, but it’s not.  The closer you were to the individual the longer it seems and the more you miss them.  Over the last few losses, I’ve changed my mind.   I’ve decided that, for a believer, a semi-colon  better describes the break one experiences from the departed.  Together you shared a portion of life; then came the semicolon of death which will be followed by the rest of the sentence–a sentence with no ending…

Observe the three dots for infinity… (or eternity)   Reminds me that the best is yet to come…  See you there, dear friend…


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