No, I am not going anywhere. This post is going to be unedited. Just my thoughts as they come, no backtracking, no post-publish edit.
Growing up, I always knew my family treated death a little different than most people, and I can see the differences so clearly now that I live so far away. We always treated it as “They aren’t suffering anymore.” Of course, along the way, some people were lost that even the most accepting in my family (my grandmother) shook their heads and said “Now that just isn’t fair.” The only time I ever saw my unflappable grandmother truly shaken was when our hometown paper ran a photo of a red convertible belonging to a student a year ahead of me. The sole casualty of that wreck was the brother of a classmate of mine. I had only ever spoken to him once, but he had made an indelible impression on me. I saw my grandmother tear up, and I noticed she hugged me, just a little tighter that night before I went to bed.
But for the most part, when it came to sick and elderly, death was a welcome end, and from a young age I was taught to have a healthy respect for death, but to hold no fear of it. By the time my Nan-nan died from complications related to diabetes, she’d lost a leg, multiple toes…her remaining leg was prone to sores. The disease devastated her, and when she died, we all mourned, though we believed her to be well and whole again, running around on two healthy legs, cursing at everyone in sight, reunited with a man she loved. When my great-grandmother died, though it hurt like hell to lose her, was reunited with her husband, her son, her family. We celebrated her life.
As I got older, and started losing more people around me, my beliefs shifted. I still held fast to the tenet of “They’re in a better place”, but I felt that it didn’t apply to the young, the sudden and unexpected deaths. A friend of mine died at 17, his body ravaged by leukemia, I couldn’t feel that there was anything acceptable about this. I couldn’t accept that he was in a better place. Because he was young. He still had a lot of life, and it wasn’t fair.
When my stepfather died, I felt much the same way, though I can’t say it was unexpected. I deal with death great, as long as there are people around me. It is rare for me to lose my composure if there are people around I feel the need to be strong for. But when I am alone, I don’t do so well. I didn’t lose my composure when my stepfather died, at least, not around my mom and brothers. But when I was home and it was just me and the Mister? Not so good. I crumbled because I knew he would be my rock, that I could stop be strong, he’d be strong for me. Those roles were reversed when his stepfather died unexpectedly last year of a sudden heart attack.
But as I write this, my godfather is dying. I keep looking at the clock, wanting to pester my mother for updates. I keep worrying about my father, who has been best friends with my godfather since god only knows when.My mother went to his house last night to help out his wife in any way she could…about an hour ago, she let me know that he had passed away.
I find it hard to believe that the man who sang with my godmother, my father, my stepmother, all the adults who used to gather around the campfire, is gone, that the larger than life (don’t think I’ve ever met a taller person) voice behind some of the lullabies of my childhood has been silenced. I am struggling to remind myself that his suffering is over, that he is a peace with a fully functioning set of lungs, a bottomless beer stein and a Harley louder than thunder. Because no matter how old I get over the years, for some reason the people from my childhood simply refuse to age in my mind.
I don’t want the songs to ever end. Rest in peace, Shifter…this entry was meant to be so much more as I prepared myself, but no matter how prepared, it still hit like a horse’s hoof to my gut.
10/03/1950 – 04/26/2012… The dash in between is what matters…