Into That Good Night
I've been thinking about death a lot lately.
This is seemingly normal for me, to be honest. I feel like I'm frequently contemplating existentialist questions and notions of the universe, and religion, and physical matter and life.
But since my grandfather died, I can't seem to shake it. I try, no doubt. There are days when I succeed, when the thought of death, his death, doesn't cross my mind more than a few times, only for brief seconds. That is all I can allow at times. Is this called pretending? I ask myself.
I've had people in my life die before. My father's parents, within six months of each other when I was in fourth grade. Two school friends, also within six months of each other, when I was in high school.
Nothing prepared me for this. None of these experiences with death prepared me for what it would be like when I lost my Pop. When I got the call. This felt like another world entirely, caving in on me, like time had just stopped and the direction forward was no longer clear. It felt like my heart was literally broken.
I've had my heart broken before. Or so I thought. Having your heart broken by a boy is not nearly the same. My heart has never felt so empty before. No one warned me about that. As Eric and I drove toward my grandparent's home that night, I looked out at the night sky and was crushed. It was not inspiring. It was frightful. Terrifying.
Losing someone you really love--someone who has been there your entire life, who made you feel special and beautiful, who made you laugh and told you old stories from way back when, someone who lived with you for ten years, someone who was like a second father figure to you--losing someone like that hurts like hell. It doesn't make sense, losing someone in general. I keep asking myself, how does someone just exist one second, and not the next? How is existence dependent on quite literally that one second?
Four hours after he passed, I snuck into his room, opened his dresser drawer and pulled out one of his white undershirts. It was folded up, neatly stacked with the others, and it smelled like him. For a moment, I was hugging him in that room, saying my own personal, precious goodbye. For a moment, I pretended he was just away, about to walk back into the house at any second--how could he not be, when the smell of his existence was still here, lingering on his clothes?
You see, it just doesn't make sense to me. I feel horrible for saying that. I want to be able to say something nice and simple. But I don't know how to feel. Because this has never happened to me. My heart aches for my grandmother, for my mother. I want to sweep them up and keep them safe. If it feels like this for me, I don't know how it feels for them, how they are pushing through the sorrow, navigating this new life.
And now reality is here--it's hit me like a ton of bricks--this will happen again someday. To someone else you love. And this feeling, this heartbreak, this upside down world, will happen again. And again, you will have to right it. You will have to grieve and yet be strong, remember and move on. Be there for someone else this time. And that is okay.
Because death is part of life. My Pop is one of the lucky ones. He was eighty-three. That is a long life. A full one. One with silly stories of stolen dogs and farmer fruit trucks, a secret elopement, poor days and rich days, yachts and fishing and three kids and four grandchildren and lots and lots of glasses of milk with peanut butter.
And I am one of the lucky ones, too. I grew up with a grandfather who was there for me, who loved me from the bottom of his heart, who taught me things and listened to what I had to say. He didn't suffer. He did go gently into that good night. And for that, I am fortunate. For him, I am grateful. And always, will I love him.