We all have accepted that death is inevitable. If not all of us, then a great majority of us have come to terms with that knowledge, but we never know the hour nor the location. It just spills into our lives, breaking through the levee we’ve had set up for years. Uncaring.
The first time I experienced death, it was my maternal grandmother. She had been in bad health for years. We all knew this, but we just never expected that she’d get worse so soon. When news came to me that she was in the hospital because she had felt pain then went unconscious, I bawled incessantly. I immediately had to think of how can I get to her. I received another call that she was okay, stable, and just needed to be looked after. My brother was with her and he kept me posted on her condition every day since.
Finally, it was time for her to be released. She had been a pain in the nurses’ asses, and they probably couldn’t wait for her to leave, the firecracker with the quick tongue that she was. She held nothing back, good or bad. She was ready to go home just as much as they were ready for her to go.
Upon her exit, she forced my brother to get her some cigarettes. He protested, knowing that her health was still not where it should be. Yet, my grandmother being her, she made it very clear who was boss. My brother hesitantly relented, buying her the cigarettes that would send her back to the hospital not even 24 hours after her leaving. This time, however, there was no leaving. At least not the way she came in.
My grandmother passed away in that hospital. Alone. In a dark hospital room as the shades were drawn. That news hit me like a mack truck as I crumbled to the ground. I had just spoken to her a few days before about her coming to California to live with us. And now she was gone.
Death had never seemed real to me. I still held childish notions that our grandparents are supposed to go, that was the way of it. I hated it for taking my grandmother, but I knew it was a reality, just not something I wanted to face any time soon after that. It made me think of her health, which made me think of my own. Then being more communicative with my family.
I connected more with my father after that. It wasn’t that we weren’t connected before then–we had built a wonderful relationship as father and daughter, possibly even friends as I grew into an adult. We never spoke all day, every day, but we made sure to touch bases. My father wasn’t much for words, but he would give them to you every so often should he feel the need to release. For all of that, he would let loose on me. He would even text me randomly that he loved me, and was proud of me. I had grown used to those texts until one showed up that I could feel in my core was different. It just felt off.
He called one day to let me know that he had “died” for a few moments during an interview for a job he had. He was just lucky someone was there to revive him and keep him conscious for the ambulance. His surgery was scheduled to clear the blockage in his heart. I was relieved and yet upset that he hadn’t told me when it happened, he had only sent the cryptic text. He apologized, but he didn’t want us to know until he was ready. That was just the way he was: unapologetically mysterious.
The surgery went well enough, and he was back to doing what he loved: riding his Harley. A few years passed and all seemed right. His texts came as often as he allowed himself to send. The most recent text he had sent to me he told me about my grandmother, his mother, and how her health was deteriorating. He was saying it to warn me, just in case. I asked him how he was doing, and he shared that he wasn’t feeling too good, but he was more worried about his mother. I told him to keep me updated.
Not even a full two weeks later, my father died.
I lost my breath. Nearly lost my mind.
I moved through my days with my mind in a fog. Nothing seemed real. My son’s requests for breakfast, lunch, or dinners were met with faraway glances and nods, mindless mommy fixing him his meals. He didn’t enjoy “sad mommy” as he’d call me. I didn’t enjoy “sad mommy” either, but the unfiltered pain was sliding into me in doses.
It still does. But it’s only a little better now.
It’s been almost two weeks since he died, and his homegoing service is today. I’m still dealing with it, and I’m doing it the best way that I know how. I don’t cry as much, but I give myself permission to should the motion hit me. As much as it hurts, I know that life is for living, and that’s what I intend to do without remorse. It just leaves me with this thought of how death comes, and we know this. I just never expected it to be my father. We never do expect it to be the ones we hold dear to us. And yet death still comes, all the same.