About three weeks ago, a friend of mine passed away. I didn’t really know how to process it, and I still don’t. My friend and coworker’s father passed away. She came to me for words of encouragement, and all I could do was provide a shoulder for her to cry.
I counsel for a living. I get paid, and essentially my life’s work, is based on listening, assessing, providing options, and support. And in order to do those things, you have to have some sort of grasp on what life has the ability to throw at you. I understand heartbreak. I understand drug addiction. I understand family issues, abandonment, trauma, rape, homosexuality, and a whole bunch of other things that I can say, “Okay, I can deal with this.” Yet, I can’t grasp death, especially not now.
My first experience with death was when I was 6. My grandfather passed away from a massive heart attack after a successful surgery that removed a tumor from his brain. I remember being able to see the form of the tumor. It was in his t-zone and I used to ask him why he frowned so much even when he smiled. I have faint memories of my grandfather. I petitioned at 3 years old for us grandkids to get a raise from $3-$5 because it wasn’t enough to get what we wanted from the ice cream man. Grandpa was a stout man. He had big hands but they were always welcoming, and warm. He was our jungle gym and let us play in the creek in the backyard even when G (my granny) said no.
We sat in the hospital for 6 hours for the surgery to be complete. We all saw him, and he was awake. He couldn’t speak because he had a tube down his throat, but he was responsive. He didn’t want us to leave because he hollered out when we turned our backs to leave the poorly lit room. The next day, we went to visit him at the hospital. He had died on our way there. There were a lot of tears, sure. I remember crying mainly because my G and my mother were crying. I remember crying because I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew I was supposed to do so. There was a whirlwind of family, stories, fights, and everything that goes with a funeral, and not once did anyone explain death to me. I didn’t ask either.
My mother always told me that she knew I was smarter that most and that I was able to navigate things on my own, and she rarely had to explain things to me. Where as I appreciate the compliment, I’m not sure this is one of those things I could’ve…gotten on my own. I’m 29 and I still don’t get it. I’m getting older, but I’m not supposed to be losing friends at this age, right? Isn’t that how life works?
There’s so many ideas and views on what death means, and I suppose I have the right to choose which fits most comfortably for my own good. But, what happens when the ones close to you, your age even, just…die? Is their life cut short? Were they here to fulfill a purpose? Did they fulfill it? Where do they go?
I think about children who die. They’re innocent. What lesson is to be learned? Why?
I think about people who live to be way into their centennial. Why them? Why do they get to live as long? Is it luck? Is their purpose not fulfilled?
I often joke about being pissed about dying early because I’ll miss a new Beyoncé album, or a new season of Love and Hip Hop. Laughter is the only thing that gets me through the unknown. It’s a scary place, and I honestly hate the shit.
What I do know is that I probably won’t figure it out until the end. And that’s…