Tag Archives: death

No Sheen on this Morbid Deathwatch

By Jason Menard,

So who’s it gonna be?

I mean, Britney was way out in the lead for a while there. Lindsay’s been putting in solid performances for a while, and even Christina has stepped up her game as of late. Would we be surprised if any of the cast of the Jersey Shore came off the bench to do it? Although, right now, our money’s on Charlie Sheen, right?

You know what I’m talking about. Who’s going to be next to kick that final field goal? Continue reading

Going Out on Your Own Terms

By Jason Menard

Nov. 3, 2005 — Let’s hear it for Gary Hames for choosing to go out on his own terms.

Hames, a Londoner who was recently diagnosed with terminal lung and lymph cancer, chose to hold his wake before he actually shuffles off this mortal coil. A celebration of life while still living – and an opportunity to appreciate the friends and family around him.

Too often we wait too long to say what we feel. Whether it’s an “I love you” to a parent or telling a friend how special they are, we often wait until the person is no longer with us to say how we feel. Hames wasn’t going to give people that opportunity.

Normally, when attending wakes, we’re placed in that uncomfortable position of having to view the deceased in an open casket. To take a few moments to say our goodbyes with our words falling on deaf ears. We make idle talk with each other, commenting on how natural the deceased looks – only because death is a natural part of life.

In my own family, my wife is at her grandmother’s bedside along with her sister and mother, doing their all to ensure that her final moments are filled with the peace and serenity that comes from knowing that she’s surrounded by those that love her. Despite her inability to respond, they spend their time reminiscing, talking of great-grandchildren, and sharing memories of a life well lived.

And saying good-bye.

It’s a hard thing to do. To see a loved one pass on, knowing that despite all the platitudes and condolences, in the end you’re left with a void where once a vibrant person stood. The process of aging and watching health fail doesn’t make it any easier. There is no preparation and there is no way of being ready. We may say outwardly that we know it’s for the best, attempting to assuage our grief with the knowledge that our loved ones’ pain is ending. But deep inside we’re selfish and we’re never truly ready to let go.

It is when presented with death that we best learn to celebrate life. We learn to appreciate the very gifts of which we’ve taken for granted for too long. All the petty squabbles, the frustrations of the past, and the hurt feelings seem so minor when faced with the finality of death. It is at the end of a life when we truly see and feel the good in everyone – but that realization comes far too late.

Which is why Hames should be lauded. We all have an expiration date, Hames is just more aware of approximately when his will come. And instead of waiting for people to celebrate his life after his passing, he took the bull by the horns and decided to join in the party before it was too late.

I often joke with my wife about what I want to happen after my death. I don’t like the concept of an open-casket visitation, because I want people to remember how I was when I walked this earth – not how I look once I leave. So, to lighten the mood I make jokes about having an animatronic corpse – so that I can sit up in my casket and greet people as they walk in. I’ve even suggested making people come by in a certain order so that I can have a pre-recorded videotaped greeting for each person – that’s one way to get the last word.

And despite my attempts at levity, my semi-serious suggestions of taxidermy – although dad as a coat rack may warp the great-grandkids – in the end all I really want is what Hames decided to have: the comfort and knowledge that there are people in this world who care for him and feel that his was a life worth celebrating.

No matter how tough we pretend to be, or how much of a loner we want to imagine ourselves, the fact of the matter is that we all want to know that we’re loved and that we’ve mattered. We want to know that our existence has made a difference in people’s lives.

And it’s a knowledge that needs to come before it’s too late.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Appreciating Our Passengers Along the Road of Life

By Jason Menard

In rushing through our everyday lives, we often are so focused on getting ahead that we forget to look around and appreciate those who have joined us for a ride down the road of life.

I recently attended a funeral, and the adult daughter of the deceased got up and read from a letter that she wrote to her father on the occasion of his 80 th birthday. In it, she stated that she didn’t want to wait for a funeral to express her feelings, when it would be more appropriate to share them while he was still alive. And I was struck as to what a profound yet simple concept that was.

Why do we wait for eulogies to express our feelings? Why is it that we are constantly doomed to repeat the mistake of not appreciating what we’ve got until its gone? Why do we take for granted those that are with us while they’re here, and not appreciate them fully until after their gone?

The game of life can be cruel. Anyone of us, young or old, healthy or frail, can shuffle off this mortal coil at any time, with or without warning. And it’s partly because of that fact that we dwell upon our own self-reflection. Our candle could be snuffed at any time, so we’re bound and determined to make that flame burn as brightly as it can!

There is a reason why important starts with an I – because that is the person we generally put first and foremost in our lives. From our hedonistic, world-revolves-around-us youth to our budding adulthood, we are possessed with the idea of being better, experiencing more, and exploring the world around us. We live, learn, and work to satisfy our Id.

Yet, often when it’s too late, we feel the loss of a loved one. We regret the words unspoken, the harsh feelings, or the wasted time arguing over petty issues. We look back on friends left behind as we’ve moved on.

But why should we wait? The old saying says that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone is a mantra we all repeat without taking it to heart.

But how do we remedy this situation? Personally, despite being a man of many words, I find it hard to express my true feelings. My parents, who I love and care for deeply, don’t hear that enough. I have friendships that I cherished in my youth that have been worn away by the eroding forces of time and distance. Even in this digital age, when communication is as simple as sending an e-mail, we rationalize our distance and attribute our lack of interaction to “being too busy” and “life.” But what good is life without friends and family to share it with?

So what do we do? We can do our best. Even if we can’t say “I love you,” we can show it through our interactions with our friends and family. We can cherish old memories and strive to make new ones. We can reach out for long-lost acquaintances and catch up on old times. The fact of the matter is that the bonds that hold us tight never truly break. They may slacken through neglect and they may be covered in cobwebs, but it only takes a quick dusting off to rediscover what brings us together.

There are some people in the world who are naturally mushy. They emote and empathize with the best of them. They cry at long-distance telephone commercials. Their eyes well up with tears when someone is telling an emotional story. I’m not one of those people and probably never will be. That doesn’t mean that people like me don’t feel. Don’t care. We’re just not as adept at expressing it.

The important thing is that deep down inside, whether you’re an emotional cripple or a blubbering fool, we all have attachments, we all have those we hold dear to us, and we all need to do a better job letting those we love know it.

Because once they’re in that pine box, it’s too late. And all the would haves, should haves, and could haves in the world won’t make up for those lost moments.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

On Life and Death

By Jason Menard

It is somewhat vexing to me that my thoughts are tinged with the spectre of death. Hold off the calls to the suicide hotline – that’s not what I mean here. It’s just that with the recent prominent deaths of Pope John Paul II and Terri Schiavo, much of our day-to-day conversation has centred around the issue, and it does give one pause to consider one’s own mortality.

So, on this day as I ponder my place in the world, you will forgive me if I indulge in a little self-reflection. I have no interest in making this site a blog where I bore you with the details of my life, but today I’ve chosen to stray from that carefully held tenet and open the window to my soul just a crack.

In light of all these aforementioned events, I realized that I am afraid of death. The sense of loss, the sense of displacement overwhelms me. And, with a family of my own, the pervasive fear runs deep.

I realize how easy it is to just be paralyzed by fear to the point where you no longer live. It is possible to love so much that it becomes restrictive. As humans, balancing the physiological and emotional need to love with the instinct for self-preservation is a daunting task, but one that must be undertaken to ensure our happiness.

I consider myself a deep man, but I choose to keep that to myself. To the outside world, the façade I present is one of cool intelligence, liberally mixed with cynicism, biting humour, and stoicism – and a lot of that is actually me. Inside, however, there is more depth, more love, and more emotion than could be guessed by my supercilious exterior.

Most importantly I’ve experienced first-hand the joys and unprecedented heights that love can bring. My wife and kids have opened up a world of experiences and sensations that, in a more cynical youth, I never expected to exist. Their gift of unconditional love has enriched my life in ways beyond expectation, and has made me more aware of my feelings. Despite not saying it to them often, I am more aware of the importance and depth of love that I feel for my parents, family, and close friends.

I believe we all, in one way or another, mature and develop that understanding. But with that understanding comes an increased apprehension towards the concept of death. As I grow and appreciate those around me more, the thought that it can all be taken away in an instant threatens to impose its will on my emotional attachments.

So do we embrace death as a natural part of life, or do we fight it tooth and nail, kicking and screaming the whole way? Is it better to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into our lives, opening our hearts fully knowing that, eventually, we could experience hurt like we’ve never felt before? Or do we hold back, steel ourselves against the future by detaching ourselves from the present?

And that’s where the fear of death comes. It is not my own death that I fear, because I know that – in the end – my death would affect me the least. It is the death of those around me that I fear. Losing a parent, a spouse, or a child would be devastating, and the pain it would render would be incapacitating.

To resolve this conflict I’ve turned to my wife for inspiration. Her grandfather, an integral figure in her life, passed away back in November and his birthday passed recently. At the time of his passing and off and on since then, a word, and image, or a memory will bring on a fresh onslaught of tears. Is it worth the anguish, I thought, to care about someone that much? But, eventually, that pain will subside. Instead of lament, her reminisces will be coloured with good memories.

Instead of recoiling from emotion, I choose to embrace it. I choose to love my parents while they’re here, love my wife fully and more deeply than ever before, and love and enjoy my children as they grow into their own personalities.

In the end, I still fear death. But, should something happen, I know that the pain will eventually fade away and I’ll be a richer man for having the honour of sharing my life with these people.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved