|Madison and her mother, Natalie|
What endings am I talking about? Death. And this is a topic that weighs heavily on my heart today. I follow Kallan Kennedy's blog The Secret Life of the American Working Witch. For those who don't follow her, Ms. Kallan has been keeping people updated as to the health condition of a little girl named Madison, asking people to send her healing. Madison fell ill quite suddenly a few days ago. She basically went from being this feisty, vivacious 3-year-old to being lethargic and then unresponsive. Maddie slipped into a coma and was in critical condition. At one point she almost died, but that brave little girl clung to life as long as she could.
The doctors had treatments in mind for the cancer she was diagnosed with, but they had to do a brain scan on her first. The brain scan revealed, tragically, that Maddie was "brain dead". For those unfamiliar with the term, it basically means that there is no electrical activity in the brain that shows any life. The body is still living but only because the machines are keeping it so. Maddie was taken off of life support earlier today and released to the Summerlands.
I had been trying to keep up with the updates on Maddie, but life has been completely chaotic over the past couple of days. I only found out about Maddie about an hour ago. I'm sitting here in my college library as I write this and I'm not going to lie: when I found out of Maddie's passing and read the words of her mother that Kallan had posted on her blog, I completely broke down. All I could do was stare at the picture of that sweet littler girl and her mother, Natalie. My heart is broken for Maddie's family in a way that I can't even put into words. It's the sorrow that a mother feels for another mother for her loss. I don't know how else to put it. While I cannot fully comprehend the agony that Natalie must be feeling, it's all to easy to imagine how my heart would shatter if I were going through this with one of my own children. But imagining and empathizing doesn't really come close, does it? It's a muted, dull ache in comparison.
I don't know what religion Maddie's family affiliates themselves with (or if they do at all). Quite frankly, I don't care. It doesn't matter. But it does come to mind that it can matter where other people are concerned as they seek to offer their condolences because it can affect how Maddie's family is treated as they begin their long journey through the grieving process. And this is where my point about attitudes come in.
First of all, death is completely natural, people. Everything dies. As Pagans, we see death as being part of the cycle. We are born, we live, we die, and at some point, we are reborn. On and on it goes until we have learned the lessons that we're meant to. To us, life really is a school. One lifetime is a school year. At the end of our school year, we get our "Summer vacation" in the Summerlands where we rest, rejuvenate, and prepare ourselves for our next "school year". It's easy to talk of such things without putting any real emotional attachment to it. We all know this, but it doesn't make it any easier when we have to say goodbye to someone, especially when it's a child so young. When we are faced with death, we have to face something else that is completely natural too: Grief.
I've seen people make efforts to comfort the grieving but end up making total assholes out of themselves. I hate to say it, but I've seen the most gaffes spoken by Christians. If I were in Natalie's shoes, for instance, and someone were to say something to me to the effect of "Those who believe in Jesus have no need to mourn because they know they'll see their loved one again someday." Yes, I have seen people use that one or a variation of it. It's appalling, really. If I am mourning the loss of someone, I don't need to hear someone tell me that my feelings basically mean that I don't believe in God. Particularly their God. There is no comfort in that. Plus, it just makes it sound as though Christians are the only ones who believe in an afterlife.
And the other crappy thing about being told such nonsense is that there might actually be some people who buy into that crap. I've seen people who, when they're told that and made to believe that their grief is a sin because it shows a lack of faith in Jesus, they stuff their grief down and, instead, try to put on a happy face lest they be seen as a "bad Christian".
Please understand that I know that Christians aren't the only ones who pull garbage like that. For the same reasons that I've seen Pagans tell other Pagans "You're not really a Pagan if you don't do a ritual for every Sabbat and for every Full Moon, New Moon, etc.," I've seen some Pagans go all "Well, every ending is a new beginning" in a very blase' sort of manner. I don't know how else to put it.
My point, people, is if you know someone who is having to go through the grieving process, PLEASE don't stunt it for them. I know that people mean well, but please try to hear what you're saying. I know I haven't given very good examples, but I hope that they were good enough to at least provoke thought as to how one deals with those who mourn. I know that we all wish that we could take the pain away from those we love who grieve their loss. I know we all want to try to find that one thing to say that could convey our feelings and our longing to comfort the bereaved. But sometimes, the best thing we can do is to give them our love, give them a hug (if they are ok with it), and just be there for them in any way we can without smothering and overwhelming them. And DO keep them in your prayers and send them loving, healing, and peaceful energy. Many of us know from experience that the pain never fully goes away, it just becomes easier to live with over a gradual course of time.
I know that this wasn't an overly eloquent post. I don't really care. My thoughts, even in their clumsiness, lie with Madison's family.
If any of you who are reading this would like to make a donation to help Maddie's family pay for her hospital costs, please go to this website: Miracle for Madison I daresay that they could also definitely use help for the funeral costs.