I debated long and hard (like almost a whole hour) about whether I should post this on facebook. I decided to go ahead and do it and am glad I did. I heard from two old friends. If I had remembered this blog, I wouldn’t have even debated about posting it on fb, but I may have debated about putting a link–but I probably wouldn’t have.
I was eight, in fourth grade, and I think it was autumn when I first experienced the soul-retching pain of death and loss. My great-grandfather had died. I remember being overwhelmed at the after-funeral
gathering at Nanny and Poppy’s house (now Candy and Robert’s house for sale). I found a spot in an empty room and sobbed. I was mystified at the laughter from the crowd of “mourners.” Turns out that’s a Riggs M.O.–some of the funniest and most inappropriate jokes can be heard at a Riggs funeral. I appreciate that now, but at eight I was mystified.
I smile when I think of that girl sobbing as she remembered her kind, jovial great-grandfather calling her over from the walk home from school to give her chocolate from his gas station. I smile at that girl who held onto the funeral carnation for years. I think great-grandfather would smile at that girl, too.
For millennia, humans have been acutely aware of death and a person’s worth is measured by the number of mourners who “survive” the loss. There was “the good death” to which all aspired. “The readiness is all,” Hamlet
. I’d like to ask Hamlet what the hell is “readiness”?
I have more experience with birth than most and I have had my fair (?) share of experience with death. Some profound thinkers have noted that birth and death are two sides of the same coin. To mix metaphors, both are doors, are beginnings. And to return to my former paragraph, I know a bit about getting ready for birth. Most deaths
don’t give you a well-marked nine-month preparation time, though. And the hard part about death is the sorrow of finality. The awesome part of birth is the joy of beginning. Sure, we are supposed to be happy “He’s in a better place,” but I am not processing my own death, I am processing how I deal with the losses death has laid at my feet. And as I survey the pile, I reason that many go through that second door simply because they want to get away from the pile at their feet.
I am not going through anything specific. This is NOT a cry for any help. I am just processing. I miss Will. I miss Mama Minga. I miss Scott. I miss Derrick. I miss Derrick’s grandmother. I miss dear, dear Percy. I miss Papaw and wish I had gotten to know him. I miss aunt Dorothy. I miss Memaw. I miss Nanny. I miss Poppy. I miss uncle Richard. I miss aunt Ira. I even miss Patrick McGraw and Mike Morris who were classmates killed in car wrecks… . I hurt for all my loved ones who have lost, like Gina who attended her brother’s funeral last week, Almetrie who buried her daughter a few months ago, Leta who recently lost her sister-in-law and Sonja who lost her mom years ago. And then there’s all the metaphorical deaths, friends with whom I’ve lost touch, opportunities (missed and taken), youth, times and phases that were amazing, zeitgeists that were or were not appreciated, places and homes I will never see again–even if I were to return to the geographical locations… . What is “readiness”? I don’t know. And I may be missing too many and hurting too much to care.
Hamlet has no answers–just questions. Sure he answers some of his own questions, but he doesn’t answer the ones he leads me to ask. And maybe he does answer all questions with two words. “To be or not be?” is answered late in the play with, “Let be.” “The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind,” that great song advises. Problem is, wind can make tornadoes and those are answers from which you must hide. Maybe I need to “let be” in a storm shelter for a while.
Before you get too worried about me–I am just going through my mid-life crisis
(yeah, I am dragging it out but it’s MY midlife 😉 and figure some of my processing might help someone else. Like it or not, we all will go or have gone through this and I am simply offering you my particular take on a very common thing.
- Death Etiquette (thewritethingstosay.wordpress.com)