I had the idea for this—really, the inspiration, if you want to call it that, since it's not fiction—quite some time ago. About four years ago, actually. But I shoved it aside. I knew it was worth writing, but I didn't want to write it.
Then, in 2009, it came again. The same sensation, the same realization. And I thought, "I should write this. It means something. I needs to be written."
But I couldn't. It was still too hard.
Then I started this class. The first day. The first assignment. Four years later, it was time. I don't know what to title it. I don't know what fits it yet, or if I ever will. Or if it will move anyone but me; they're my thoughts, emotions, and fears, after all.
Still, it was worth finally writing, and it's worth finally sharing. For whatever it's worth.
I don't know why, but I feel like it's important—or at least relevant—to mention that while I wrote this, I listened to "After the Storm," by Mumford & Sons, on perpetual repeat. Somehow it just evoked the right emotion in me, one that really married how I felt when I first had the urge to write this and how I needed to feel to actually write it. Either way, I feel since I listened to it while writing this piece, if you wanted companion music for it, I'd recommend that song.
When you’re little, there is no death. Death is just one of those things that we learn about as we go. My first experience with death that I really remember was the death of my granddad. But for some reason, his isn’t the death that broke something in me. Really, there were two deaths—both recent—that caused the break.
The first was my grandpa’s, my mother’s dad. Strangely enough, it wasn’t his passing that caused such a change in me; it was seeing my mom. Seeing how hard it was for her. At the end of his funeral, we all rose to walk past the coffin and pay our final respects. As I stood in line behind my parents, behind my mother and her three siblings, I was struck by how small she looked. She leaned over my grandpa’s coffin—the final goodbye. As I watched, I realized that I wasn’t looking at my mother, not as I knew her. I was looking at a little girl saying goodbye to her daddy for the last time. A small, heartbroken little girl. It was a shock to me because I had never seen her like that. For some reason it hadn’t occurred to me until that moment that the loss of my grandpa was not the same as her losing her father. Though they were the same man, our sense of loss was very different.
The second death was the death of my grandmother, my dad’s mother. My whole life, I had known her as Super Granny. A great moniker for an extraordinary woman. Her death was very unexpected. Though she was in her mid-eighties, she was in good health. On one of my dad’s frequent trips to her house to check on her, he found her in bed, as if merely sleeping. Again I was shaken by the sensation that I wasn’t watching my father handle things, that I wasn’t comforting and hugging my father, but rather that I was trying to console a little boy who couldn’t quite believe that he really wouldn’t ever see his mommy again.
These two deaths caused something inside me to change, to see things differently. It was like a last veil had been lifted—the image of my parents as indestructible, the same image many children have of their parents when they’re young, gone. I began to realize that my parents are next in line, morbid as it sounds. The older generations are nearly gone. Time is, indeed, marching on—no matter how much I wish it would stop. Shortly after my grandmother’s funeral, my dad was trying to describe to me how it felt having both parents gone. Both of my parents have now lost both of their parents, and my dad described it like being orphaned. I realized then that planning, growing up, preparing—none of those things are foolproof. No matter how old you get, there are some things you’ll never be able to prepare for.
Since these experiences and the subsequent conversations, there’s a new kind of sadness in me. Not a weeping, overwhelming sadness, but one that comes with the realization that one day I’ll lose my parents, too. No matter how old I am, I’ll be jolted back to childhood, to feeling lost and scared with no more mom or dad to turn to. And no matter when it happens, I won’t be ready for it.