Id like to preface this with, I’m on a plane right now and all I can think of is anything but positive.
My pepere died when I was ten years old. There’s a story leading up to his death of course, but I couldn’t tell you it now. Sometimes I’m not sure if I truly remember things or if I’m simply relying on what others have told me. Are those my memories or yours? They’re all on looseleaf paper now and only appear as bulleted lists with little to no information. Whoever they belong to, they did a real bogus job of recording them.
So, right, my pepere died when I was ten. That was the second time death had visited me and I can barely remember it. The first was when it took my great grandfather earlier that year. I remember that even less because Philip lived three plus hours away from me. All I remember about him was the long awful car ride that a visit to his home was prefaced with and the brilliant amount of produce he was still growing at his age. The bushes of berries and vegetables grew and were cared for until he passed at ninety six. At least I think I remember it that way.
Death would come and go for a while when I was young. There’s no obituary I can look up for my pets to tell you when they passed but those were peppered in ever so morbidly. Our golden retriever got cancer, our mastiff mix just grew old, the rabbit got a tumor on his foot that was just relentless (it got to a point that operating on him was selfish and wasn’t going to be any good for our fur ball), and all of my sisters rodents through out the years were… Rodents that weren’t cut out for long life spans. I lost a friend when I was fifteen to a drunk driver, which is still strange to think about to this day. A friends father hung himself when I was twelve. I can’t drive by their old house without looking in the window that was once the perfect frame for his hanging corpse if you were standing on the street below.
In every single one of those instances I thought I was dealing with the deceased rather well. Then something melted and popped in my brain. At age twenty one when my memere passed away, I hated everything. Are you kidding me? MY memere? The same woman who had been telling me what to do every morning for as long as I can remember and has the stubbornness of a mule. I wanted to tell whatever was taking her that they couldn’t have her. That she was mine and I laid claim to her long before death, so it better back the fuck off real fast. I spent years with her watching TV, listening to her scream in her sleep, watched her get increasingly sick. I called my mom and almost missed the bus on multiple mornings when things didn’t seem right, I saw her feet kicking relentlessly through her strokes, I visited her in the hospital, I listened to her, I loved her. What the fuck kind of right did death have?
The truth is death doesn’t have rights. It also doesn’t have wrongs. It doesn’t exist to abide by fake human laws. It doesn’t even know what right or wrong is. It is just something that occurs without a bit of anything you can do to change it, transform it, remix it. Death is death and its so final. Regardless of how you feel or think, it continues to be death. It is promised to us even if we do not want to accept it. It is the fruit cake, pair of socks, and ugly, itchy sweater combo everyone hopes to not receive on any given consumerist holiday.
Two years ago a friend I considered to be rather close passed away due to some bogus accident and that was incredibly difficult to swallow. I can recall walking into a room where everyone was standing, looking on, saying their last goodbyes. This is a moment that sucked more than anything I have yet to experience but due to my silly noggin, truly taught me a thing or two about myself. When I walked into that room something made more sense than it ever had in the past. That bit about death just being death and always being death? This is the moment that ran through my head like a pack of wolves, just as powerfully as well. Gnashing and clawing at any given chance. That thought ran so hard through my head over and over and over yet again until my brain looked like the pounded track of the Kentucky Derby. In this odd moment of some weird cosmic wave of defeat I let out what I can only describe as the cry of a wounded animal. The kind with its leg stuck in one of those traps with all of the teeth. Some metaphorical metal mouth munching on my leg. Damn.
My jello legs carried me to the nearest exit as embarrassment washed over me in bucketfuls, my cheeks suddenly a few shades deeper and covered in tears I hadn’t even noticed. I tried to compose myself. I wanted to run. I don’t know why, I don’t know what it would have done entirely besides make me look like a strange, strange person. I tried to compose myself again. With that little card they hand you at the door pressing into my palm, I looked down at my friend, my living ones all standing around me waiting, and I asked in my head, “How do I go back in there and look at you beside your brother? How do I do that now? After such a reaction while he’s standing beside your corpse calm as a cucumber, how do I go in there and not fall apart again?”
I did it. With tears in my stupid eyes from the restart to the finish. I wanted to touch his hand, his hair, his lips. I remember this. It wasn’t because I was attracted to him or I’m that fascinated with death. It was more of the fact that if I touched him maybe it would be a joke. Maybe my living, alive, life filled self would zap something back into him and he would sit up. I didn’t do it. I kept my hands to myself. I knew better than that deep down- there was nothing that I could do. He was dead. He would remain dead.
No one mentioned my reaction. His girlfriend, his brother, and his parents were all kind and we hugged each other. I let them know I was sorry for their loss. I told his brother, though we were never super close, that if he ever needed anything that I would be there for him. He offered me the same. I wish that hadn’t been the first I had seen him since high school. I kept that to myself. I left a bit quieter than I had arrived, slinking away with the people I came with. We listened to blink 182 and I wondered if they would ever feel like they used to again. He loved Blink.
In January of this year my grandfather passed away. I cried once in my car because a song came on and there was this one damn line that just was too much for my stupid emotional head. I cried for my grandmother. I cried because now she would be put into an old folks home and that made me sad. I felt guilty about this, about not being sad that he had passed. He grew old though. He was part of a war, he drank beer and smoked cigarettes every day of his life, he had fallen in love, he owned a home, he lived a very full life. I was sad that him passing signified so much change. But I wasn’t sad at death.
I’m not sure there’s a good way to word any of that. When I read it myself, placed right after the bit about my friend, I sound a bit heartless. But I’m not. I’m not cold. I was sad. It’s just that this time the sad came complete with a pack of wolves that had made themselves at home. The wolves growled but didn’t gnash and in those growls there was an underlying message that sometimes… Sometimes you need to forgive death for being death because it was never given the choice to be anything else and being sad at it is a whole lot of wasted effort.
I still don’t believe I know how to deal with him. He’s a tricky, peculiar entity and he never stays around long enough to relate to anyone. But a part of me wants to believe he isn’t so bad. Not intentionally anyway.