Not surprisingly, January is the month that the most people die in the U.S. The reasons are varied. Over 250,000 people have died in January in each of the past 10–15 years, four to 12% more than in each of the other months.
Colder months typically require that the heart work harder. It is also at the end of the holiday season when eating unhealthy foods and to excess occurs. Family gatherings can also be a source of stress. The winter months are also ripe for flu and colds, as well as COVID and other infections and illnesses.
In my circle of family and friends, one person died in January 2023 (less than a week ago at this writing) after he was taken off dialysis (for the third time) at his request. He died within less than 24 hours of being transferred to a skilled nursing facility. True, he had other health problems, having suffered and survived treatment for cancer and had become blind with glaucoma, to name his biggest recent health issues. So, perhaps his situation was not typical for the season.
My friend’s passing brings home that each person’s experience with aging, death, and dying is different. Just two months ago another friend passed, just before Thanksgiving. She was one of the people who reviewed my book before publication; a hospital chaplain and swami with many years of experience in hospice work. She knew her time was coming and had an opportunity to plan and prepare as well as say her goodbyes. She died quietly at home three and a half months after being given a four-month prognosis.
There is no easy predicting of the time, manner, and circumstances of our passing. What we can plan on is how we conduct ourselves, and how we live today. Not in the sense of controlling or micromanaging others, but how we respond. Not as easily done as said, of course. Still, as we… as I… look back on the day, the events, the people, and the encounters, each one adds to the totality of who I am today.
I am reminded of the last brief poem in my book, A Life Well Lived, A Death Well Met, entitled The Candle.
unlit, the candle waits
burning, the candle lights
a small corner of the world
and slowly dies
In the coming year, 2023, may you be a candle bringing light to your world.