What death taught me

Today is challenge 4 in the ProBlogger challenge. Today, we are asked to make a story post, a post that offers a story about us as a blogger, an event, the business, a story of some description and how it affected you. Today, my time is short, I arrived late after my transport to my hotel for an event was delayed and my time to write, to blog has been severely restricted. So I thought I’d mention some thoughts I don’t think I’ve ever really discussed with anyone else.

I once did a skydive. I willingly jumped out of a plane and freefall for a few thousand feet before gliding down to earth when the instructor pulled the parachute. We fell ten thousand feet from the plane door to the ground. Why? It was linked to a death and my way of paying a thank you for those who helped my family in the darkest of times.

3 in 1

It all started the year that I lost three grandparents to various cancers and diseases. Not a calendar year but a stretch of time over two that lasted a year, but I won’t get fussy with descriptions. The deaths were of my beloved grandparents, people who had shaped my life in ways I appreciated and in many other ways that I only knew about after they were gone. I suppose it is true, you never know what you have until it is gone.

The deaths struck me like a thunderbolt. I had been 22 when I went to my first funeral, a family friend. I sat in the pew, surrounded by my school friends and others I had grown up with, seeing the devastation that it had caused to the departed’s family and felt like I wasn’t meant to be in attendance as if I was imposing on their grief in some way. I wondered how I would have reacted in their place. I didn’t have long to wait.

My grandparents died of various cancers. The rapid acceleration of cells in the body, to form tumors took my grandparents and others close and far to me since. Some of the deaths were rapid, others were long and drawn out like some evil being was toying with our pain and suffering, getting some kick out of it.

I watched as people that I loved, slowly lost their fight for life and despite being six foot three, powerlifting and feeling like a Highland strong guy, I had no power to do anything to help or at least support them.

There were some moments of light relief in this dark cave of life. Some warm memories were shared, laughs spread as we discussed silly and weird things family members did in some past time, that seemed to be a life someone else lived as  I sat on the outside of the conversations, feeling emotionally numb and not a real participant in the family as I had no idea how to act or feel.

I remember sitting and being awed by the Marie Curie nurses who came in to support my family. My grandparents were house-bound, some of my family members were acting as part time carers in addition to their real jobs. They would come in and take turns looking after their loved ones. Many were working almost every hour possible, sleeping little and were physically shattered, visible black bags under the eyes, the exhaustion of the stress, misery, work and pain etched on their faces as they tried to keep everything going, as they knew deep down they were preparing to say goodbye to a loved one, a parent, a friend, a mentor, someone who had shaped their in life and would be missed in ways that no one could ever explain or replace in their lives. At night time, the Marie Curie Cancer charity nurses came to help look after the two grandparents who were able to remain at home until they checked out of their mortal shell for the last time. These amazing people came into the home of those unfortunate families who were experiencing grief and misery and worked to ease the passing of the terminal person, to maintain their dignity and ensure their comfort was the top priority. Their support allowed some small shots of rest for my family members, something I was extremely grateful as I had worried for some who pushed their ‘burn the candle at both ends’ act to the extreme. The amazing nurses came in and did their jobs and supported the dying. It made me feel grattude to them for their amazing help but I felt worse, these were random strangers, who were looking after my loved ones better than I did. I saw the level of spport and empathy they provided. I vowed to be better and support them more. I tried and got better. I worked at it and was there more, I was present more and I hope they noticed how much I loved them.

Sadly, as explained by the name of the diagnosis, my grandparents were terminal, they were dying. There was no hope, no restart, no ctrl-alt-delete in life, to allow me to remove these evil blints inside them and allow them more time on earth, to restart the level in their life without the dark contents slowly squeezing out their last breaths.


The year was like a blur. I remember the first few days after each of my loved grandparents died. The rest of the time seems to blur together into shadows of events and random dribs and drabs of conversations remaining in the dark corners of my memory. I felt emotionally raw like a childhood innocence had been ripped away from me, along with my grandparents, never to be returned. To be honest, I handled it badly. I felt too immature to understand the magnitude of their impending deaths and the massive impact that it is having on other people in the family. I ran from conversations, hide away as much as possible from being around the people who were dying or upset as I didn’t feel capable to allow it in, as if by ignoring it, it wasn’t real or going to happen. Yet, it did and it will happen to us all. To this day, I regret how I handled things. I never got truly involved. I never helped out to the best of my ability. I never felt like I was present when I was with my grandparents, I felt too trapped in my own grief to attempt to understand what they were going through and assist or help them or at least try and offer some support or comfort. I didn’t feel a very good grandchild to them. I have many regrets from this time. I spent little time with the people I loved. I never helped enough. I didn’t spend enough time getting to know these extraordinary people while they were alive, I have many questions about them, all of which seem to arising as punishment for my shitty actions. I don’t feel like I showed enough love to them in their darkest times. I feel like all I showed was immaturity. I hope that they understand what the real me was thinking and meaning during the time and what I hoped they could read through my childish actions.

The story concludes, why this one?

I am sure that we have all had to endure the pain of losing a loved one, either a close family member or a friend or other connection to our lives but we will we will all handle it differently. I’ve told the story, neatly dancing around the areas that would need acres of text to explain situations and conversations and emotions or would bring the wall of misery back to encase me when I think about it. The story was to act as a scene setter, not a review of a sky-dive or something similar. I got thinking about it today for some reason and it seemed a good story to share as it made me think about some good things to remember.

The point of this article is to use a story from my life in a meaningful way. I decided to use this story as the tragic events taught me some valuable life lessons that I feel are helpful to others who are going through such an event or recently had to endure or anyone who has had it happen to them. Pretty much anyone reading this blog to be honest.

What death taught me

  • Death is inevitable. It is something that we all have coming, regardless of age, colour, culture or beliefs. We are all born and we will all die. Including you reading this. We do not have an infinite time of this earth. We are not always promised another tomorrow. That thing you are putting off, there is never a guarantee that tomorrow will come or that your heart will continue beating into tomorrow, so do it now. Plan it if you must, grab some courage and energy and do it now. Don’t let a wish become a dream or something that people mention that you always wanted to do but never got around to it when they discuss you at your funeral or somewhere else.


  • People don’t always know how you feel. The sibling you hurt while playing as kids but you never apologised to. The colleague you regret shouting at but feel too embarrassed to speak to set the record straight. The dying relative. People can’t read minds. You can try and portray a message by your actions but these things are left open to interpretation by the person, we all judge actions and words etc by our own beliefs, bias, and history to that point, so your actions may not give the real story you mean to. Instead, open your mouth. Speak to the person. Ask questions. Ask their opinions. Ask do they need anything, ask, just ask, just speak. Interact with the person. Interact in the situation. Interact to ensure that the memories you are left with are the memories that you are happy with.  Ihave made it my mission now that my family know I love and care for them, that when I die they will know how I felt about them and hopefully my neice and nephews will be inspired by the life that I live and it will push them to fufil their goals and dreams.
  • Death is not always an end. Sure, death takes someone from us, never to return them but there can be positives to take too. Death can remove their pain. Death can remove their suffering. Death can remove the agony they endure while on this planet. Death can teach you that life is short, that life is to be lived. Death can teach you how to live your life by the standards set by another or show you the ways to avoid by highlighting an unfulfilled life. I don’t believe in any gods or deity. To me, when we die, we die. We don’t pass go, we don’t collect £200 from the monopoly board of life and we slowly decompose in the ground. The only person we have to justify our lives to in the end, in my opinion, is ourselves, the person you see in the mirror. Death reminds us of our own incoming death and removal from this world. Our time on this earth is ticking away, it is coming but we will never know when, like some horrible present that no-one really wants but will be forced upon regardless of what we do.
  • Death teaches us. It shows the people around us for who they truly are, not the person they claim to be but the true heart inside that person. I remember being amazed at how awesome my mum was during this time. How she fought through exhaustion, how she looked after them, ensured their pain was managed as much as possible, food and care were provided as required. She is an extraordinary person and someone who is truly amazing. She means the world to me. She showed me that despite events being as dark as they can be, events that would rob her of the people who had brought her into this world, that we can find strength from within and help those, to care for those and forget our own petty needs and wants at the time. Watching my mum during this time, helped me mature into a more empathetic person. I saw her do these amazing acts as I fought my childish trembles. She was the type of person that I wanted to be and seeing what true, unselfish love was, she made me a better person. I have the chance to show her what she means to me, to speak to her, to be involved with her. I missed the chance with my grandparents but I have the chance now. Time is short, my parents will die, I will die but they are here now. They light up the world for me. I am sure that we are all that person or group of people who do they same for you. You know who they are. Make sure they know. Don’t live to think about how you wished you had done it in a massive regret that will never go away. Do it. Show them. Tell them. People are not mind readers after all.

Death is coming. Death will serve us all. We can’t escape it but we can learn from it, we can be there for people who are meeting death and we can be better people from it. I hope that my grandparents understand why I acted how I acted. Maybe I am reading too much into it and they know but the story of the deaths put me onto a better path in my life. It was a major part in starting this blog. It was a major part of me showing more love and being more present and there for the people in my life. Death is coming. Live a life worthy of inspiring others. Live a live worthy of praise and good memories to share with others. Live a life where you can be there for the people who you love in your life. Live a life that when you are lying on your own deathbed, about to welcome death in, that you can look at yourself in the mirror and justify your life to yourself.

Death is coming. Time is ticking. Life is for living. Start now. Pick some goals, take the first step. Just start. You may not have many or any tomorrows left, so use the now wisely. Start now.

About the Author
I would modestly describe myself as a Website Badass, Blogging Guru and Self Improvement Wizard! I'm a blogger and entrepreneur who writes to help men develop and better their lives using examples from popular media. My personal journey has been marked by awkwardness and awesomeness, OCD and 'OMG'. I'm 33, a Teuchter and currently resides in the United Kingdom. I've set my own foot on fire whilst reading and been a midwife to sheep! I also run www.iandawsonmackay.com for your website needs!

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