Throughout my entire life leading up to this very point, all I’ve seen in my mind’s eye is the prospective future based on my own aspirations. Never have I been one to dwell in the past, let alone reminisce in the present — life is about living and living is about achieving goals -- or so I’ve believed.
My goals have always been fairly standard -- graduate from high school, go to college in the city, get my diploma, become a young professional, fall in love, move to a new city, etc. In the midst of all my “living” and working toward goals, I’ve fallen victim to something I believe all members of my generation will succumb to -- not understanding the concept of permanence. This is an idea that has become completely lost to me.
That was up until the moment I lost one of the most important people and figures in my life — my grandfather. Death in itself is not what saddens the heart, as it’s merely a scientific fact of life -- it’s the permanent absence of those you love, which causes the pain.
There are profound life moments — such as death — that occur without effort or challenge, making acceptance the only option for preparation. The struggle of losing the individual who helped to raise and harbor me into the human I am today is nothing short of being the eye-opening experience that will make or break me, as I was neither prepared to accept this nor am I ready.
I don’t know what to do with death. None of us really do. Some of us pray, some of us cry, some of us sit quietly and think, and some find that the best way to deal with death is to keep busy. Lord knows I have.
I was in Brooklyn when I got the call that you had passed away. The tears came, but to be honest, they were for my mother, my grandmother and my immediate family. As for myself, I felt numb. I was glad that you wouldn’t be in pain. I was glad we wouldn’t have to complain about our knees aching when the weather changed. I was glad that you were finally at peace, and that whatever and wherever you may be on the other side, that you were with your beloved Tia and Babe and all the dogs we grew up with.
You taught me how to drive stick. You taught me how to go camping. You taught me how to make the perfect peanut butter sandwich. While these aren’t life lessons I use regularly, you are intrinsically tied to so many of my childhood memories.
I won’t make it to your funeral and I won’t be at your services. I wasn’t there to say goodbye to you, but I want you to know that I won’t ever forget you. I won’t forget the love and sparkle that you had for Grandma after 50 years of marriage. I won’t forget your ability to debate politics at the drop of a hat. I won’t forget your laugh or your funny faces and jokes. I won’t forget how your mugs of “mulk” were my favorite drink growing up. I won’t forget how much I’ve missed you.
We will lose people all throughout our life, it is an unchangeable reality. We watch our grandparents and parents get older and we do not want to confront the inevitable. But then reality sets in and we are forcibly reminded of our mortality and the mortality of everything that exists around us.
One of the best things about being a writer is the ability to comfort people with words. A held hand, a kissed cheek, a loving embrace can be one of the most important things that a person experiences during times of loss. But so is a kind word, a word that allows the emotions to flow unhinged, and a word that leaves those scarred by loss, for a moment, at ease. When we experience loss, words can be our reconciliation.
My heart aches. No man-made remedy can heal this hurt, only time, which until this moment I felt I had an infinite amount of. From here I will continue to smile my way through as I try to find the right words.
Here’s to you, Gramps.