COLUMN: Celebrate life in times of death

Angela Oliver

It’s never easy to deal with, nor can you always see it coming. But death is an inevitable part of life.

Hip-hop music is saturated with songs about loss and grief, from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “Tha Crossroads” to Dr. Dre’s “The Message” to Nas’ “Dance.”

These and other artists paint pictures of their fallen loved ones, sometimes violent and gory, other times peaceful and graceful.

But no matter their experience, the songs express a feeling we’ve all had, and that makes them beautiful.

I don’t mean to sound morbid or lower anyone’s spirits, but with the loss of two aunts within the past two weeks, one on each side of my family, death has been on my mind. And some of you may be mourning as well.

I keep thinking of my cousin, who found my aunt, her mother, in her home and never got to say goodbye. And I think of my grandmother, who lost her sister, and how she feels to be the last of her siblings left. I think of the funeral and that unavoidable tension in the room as we’ll walk up to the casket – the teary expressions, the soft cries, the moving songs and the chilling internment. All of these things run through my mind, and they sadden me.

But then I think of all my loved ones who have transcended this earth in past years. I can still see their faces, their smiles, their personalities. And I find comfort in their memory.

I encourage you to do the same. I’m no therapist; my advice giving goes no further than girl talk with my friends. But I can bet you’ve felt the same way, so I’ll share what works for me. And if you’re faithful, it might work for you, too.

When you begin to miss them, simply speak a few words to those who are no longer living. In some way – a dream, an action, a feeling – they will speak back to you. If you can’t stop thinking about them, grab a journal and write down all of your thoughts; document your memories with them and keep them close to you as a reminder of the good times. And most importantly, use them as your daily motivation. Appreciate your life, cherish your family and do good deeds while you still can.

If all else fails, try listening to a song. If nothing else, it will remind you that you are not alone.

Surely, we’ve all endured a period of disheartening grief, anger and doubt that we could ever find happiness again. But, with time, and by some miraculous work of fate, we found strength. That’s one of the most powerful things about being human.

Death is tricky. It doesn’t warn you, and it doesn’t apologize. But when it’s over, we somehow find a way to accept it. I guess we don’t let it stop us for too long because we’ve all learned what Tupac said best: “Life goes on.”