25 years ago my oldest brother was killed in an accident in our home just a few short days before Christmas. He had received a backpacking hammock at a Boy Scout party and put it up in the garage. He was alone for a period of time and got the hammock tangled around his neck. When we found him, CPR was administered but he never again took a breath on his own. He was 14. I was 9.
I’ve been reluctant to write about Jonathan in a public space, not because I’m uncomfortable, but because in general people don’t want to talk about death. I’d like to say I understand, but honestly I don’t. Death has been an intimate part of our family since that tragic December day years ago. As a family, and individually, we went through the stages of grief and emerged with a healthy ability to discuss death, dying, and the ripple effects on those left behind. It is actually one of my favorite things to talk about.
In my early twenties, just a few short months after getting married, my Father in Law was killed in a airplane crash. And once again, death came unexpectedly and intwined itself into my adult life. And again, I struggled with what to say.
Visiting Grandpa’s Grave
In between and since those two defining moments in my life I’ve lost many others. My grandfather died of an unexpected heart attack. Both of my grandmothers passed peacefully after spending time on hospice care. The most heart-wrenching is loosing classmates and friends on active duty. There is no doubt in my mind that death can happen at any time, to anyone. And it’s something I think we all need to talk about more.
I’d like to start a series here about all the issues surrounding death. Not just the spiritual side, but the practical too. Things like having a will, declaring guardians for your children, financial consideration of estate planning and making burial plans. I know from real life conversations that many people my age never consider any of these things until an unexpected death occurs. And many would do just about anything to avoid such discussions. I would like to encourage others in making plans and decisions now.
I hope that you will join me in these conversations. (Also, I’m totally stuck on a series name. Any thoughts on that?)
Side note – the style of hammock that killed Jon was banned from import many years about but now a similar style is on the market and becoming quite popular. Single point hammocks that look like a rope when no one is in them are very unstable and unsafe. Many deaths happened from the mesh hammocks. I’m not sure if the fabric ones that are filling outdoor stores are any safer, but I would’t risk it. For your home, buy a hammock with metal or wood spreader bars. If you’re camping, take an air mattress or sleep on the ground.