Life Lessons — What death teaches us

This past week, a friend from church passed away at the far too young age of fifty-eight.

On Friday morning, we attended the memorial service and we were able to see just how much one life can mean.

Before I go on, I should note that death for the immediate family is NEVER a learning situation and anyone who attempts to comfort those closest to death with words related to the deceased “being in a better place” or it being “better that they are not suffering” deserve both scorn and any physical retribution that is meted out upon their bodies.

So for the Gaines family, this note is not for you. There is nothing for you to learn at this time — it is just time for you to grieve in whichever direction your emotions may take you although you can perhaps take a small comfort in the many things that Ruth’s life taught at least one person.

Lesson 1 — People Matter Most

The people who came to the ceremony were what you would usually expect, but the people who came from out-of-town spoke volumes.

The first that I recall was a woman about twenty-five years old who had been a friend of Ruth’s son, Steven in high school. She called her “Mama Gaines” and told about how she cared about all of the kids that she met along the way.

The second was a former boss of Ruth’s husband, Rick, who described Rick as the hardest working man that he had ever met. He and his wife and flown from Chicago that morning for the service and were driving to the airport to catch another flight out that evening.

A third family made the drive from Philadelphia. Another man flew from California to Georgia for the ceremony.

People only make these efforts when there is real love and real giving.

Lesson Two — Each Day is a gift

On my Facebook page, I have this quote in the handy, dandy quote box — Each day is a gift from the LORD. Like manna, it can only be used once and then it is gone.

The truth is that none of us know how long we have and what we choose to do with our life matters.

Somewhere along the line I have read the quote that “No one regrets on their death-bed that they didn’t work enough.”

This is not a condemnation of hard work, but simply a reminder to stop and think about what is important. Do you really need to watch one more sitcom or mow the lawn or should you pick up the phone and call your best friend from high school instead?

Lesson 3 — Living in Peace is a good thing

Another characteristic that you could see from what was said is that there was not an acrimony between Ruth and those she knew. Oh, I’m sure there was the day-to-day stuff that goes around in families, but there was no bitterness or hard feelings.

When we harbor bitterness, we hurt ourselves far more than others. I think it was one of my pastors who said, “Bitterness is a cup of poison that we drink thinking that it will harm our enemies.”

I’m thankful that within my extended family we have striven for peace and that good friends have come to me when we have a problem and wanted to work it out.

This is not easy since you may not always get the response that you want, but I take comfort in the scripture that says “As far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

You may find that you have someone in your life who you have done all you can to make peace with it and at that point, you just have to let them go.

Lesson 4 — You can always give no matter your circumstances

I am not talking about money here, of course, but giving of yourself.

Despite a four year fight with brain cancer, Ruth was always at church because that is the call of a Christian and while she often sought prayer, she also gave prayer.

She liked to hug and she would find you and give you a hug as well.

We can always encourage people and that is even easier with today’s social media. Reaching out to people who were mentors for us and sharing how it touched us brings honor and fulfillment to those who have helped us.

Lesson 5 — You are responsible for your attitude not your circumstances

Till the day she died, Ruth maintained a sense of humor.

Sometimes when the pastor would stop by the house, she would make a “jail break” with him to get some sweet tea from McDonalds.

She would tell the aides that they needed to straighten up or she would fire them.

Attempts to correct her bent glasses frames were rejected because she liked how people would turn their heads at weird angles to try to look her in the eyes.

I contrast this with my own often bad attitude brought on by the mildest of circumstantial misdeeds.

Lesson 6 — Life should be lived

There are countless metaphors from the movies The Bucket List and Stranger Than Fiction to those proposed by self-help gurus who message is to “live your life.”

Ruth lived her life — skating, hiking, working, learning, loving, worshiping, and caring.

There are two and a half months left in this year — is there someone you need to write or call, something you’ve “always wanted to do,” something that has taken over your life that you need to dump?

Two and a half months — live your life.

Do it for Ruth.


About kentostby
Kent Ostby is a fiction and efficiency writer who is willing to dabble in just about any other phase of writing as well.

2 Responses to Life Lessons — What death teaches us

  1. Kari says:

    Beautiful lessons from what sounds like a beautiful life. Thanks for sharing…

  2. Hannah says:

    What a beautiful testimony of her life. She has now touched me, and I was never blessed to meet her.

    Thank you, Kent, for always sharing your wisdom and soft spots.

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