Numbered Days

Living and dying with grace and courage

Elizabeth Edwards will be buried today.

Even though we all knew about her stage 4 breast cancer, and had read the announcement that she was ending treatment, it happened so quickly, it threw many of us off-balance.

8 years ago today, my friend, Kip, died of a glioblastoma multiformae.

I had known from the day I heard of his diagnosis that his days were numbered, because I lost my mentor, Dennis Behan, from the same deadly brain cancer a few short years before.

As I sat with Kip in his final hours, I had no idea what dying looked like.

It is as uncomplicated as this: his breathing slowed gradually over the last minutes, until finally he exhaled and did not again inhale. His face and body gradually relaxed.

The light that animates all living creatures lifted slowly from his body, literally, and it was clear that he was gone.

It is impossible to watch this happen and not believe in the immortal soul.

Here is all I know of grief: It has it’s own timeline and will not be rushed.

And anniversary dates — especially those near the holidays — are potent triggers.

So, if you are missing someone you’ve loved and lost, resist our culture’s need to rush past it, to hurry the process because of discomfort with the very idea that we are all going to die.


Honor the loved one you lost. Remember the joy you shared. Celebrate the preciousness of life.

Grief is not an illness, and it is not an event. It is a process.

Amidst the sadness, and inevitable laughter of warm, funny memories, try to understand this truth: No matter what its length, life is always too short.

Show the love you feel.

Express the gratitude which has been earned.

Live as fully as you can, right now, in this moment, because tomorrow is not guaranteed, and for each of us, our days are numbered.