My grandfather (on my father’s side) passed away yesterday. He was 95 years old. When I heard the news, I was shocked, sad, and a whole mess of emotions mingled with the minutiae of one’s daily routine.
If you were to ask my mother, she would tell you, “She’s the only one of my daughters who grew up obsessed with death.” My mom retells stories of my childhood where I preface a statement with, “When you die…”. Daddy said to me once, “Why are you always trying to kill us?”
I’m not sure why I had such an fixation on death as a child. Not quite sure why I still do. It’s an ever lingering thought in my head. It could be because I saw my grandfather (on my mother’s side) pass away when I was seven. I remember a tall, dark-skinned man with big lips, and a raspy deep voice. I remember loving him very much.
In adulthood now, I wonder if perhaps it shows my understanding that every step I take, every move I make, every breath I breathe is all in the grace of God’s hand. Our ‘control’ is an illusion. I think the more honest we are with ourselves, the more we can grasp our lives truly aren’t our own. Sure, we can strive for our dreams and goals. We all should. But our lives? My life? It is a gift.
The thing is this: we all know we’re going to die. It’s a fact. What we don’t know is when it’ll happen. Perhaps it’s not death that shock us as much as the unknown element of it — when. If we all knew when it was going to happen, most of us would do our best to live life to the fullest. The petty, stupid bickering we do as people, communities, states, and countries would decrease dramatically if we all knew our death date.
Why? I believe the reason why is because each of us would have to evaluate exactly what’s important. “Do I hold a grudge for twenty years?” “Do I stay involved in a toxic relationship to keep up appearances?” “Do I not pursue my dream because of fear of rejection, failure, or success?” If we all knew when we were to die, more than half the choices we made would different.
Right now, everybody is talking about the deaths of Natalie Cole and David Bowie. Just today, I’ve listened to David Bowie’s “Lazarus” song for probably the fifth or sixth time and will do so for the rest of the day. In particular with Bowie, I grew up watching the Labyrinth and falling in love with the man’s persona. Who didn’t? Yet, there’s a scene in the Lazarus music video where Bowie appears to levitate from his hospital bed (more than likely alluding to his fight with cancer) but doesn’t escape it. He croons, “This way or no way, you know I’ll be free.”
My grandfather passed away in his sleep. I think about that as I type this and I’m glad to know it happened that way. There are fond memories of him in my mind. As a child, we all went over his house when my grandmother was still alive and we’d spend time there. He’d give us gifts as kids and then as we got older, gave us money.
Most significant of the memories is a painting in my grandfather’s house. It’s an abstract of color. It’s meant to be whatever the viewer thinks of it. As a child, I remember staring at the painting and being enraptured by it. One of my most fondest memories is of all us sitting around and watching two hours of Michael Jackson videos, talking, eating, and commenting.
When I got older, I lost connection with my grandfather as life interferes, something I regret now. I really can’t think of anything important to allow that to happen but nevertheless it did. If anyone takes nothing else from this post, take this: don’t let distance stop you from getting close to loved ones. A phone call, an email, or a quick stop does wonders for keeping relationships growing. As we drifted apart, I feel that lack a lot now. But unfortunately, Death takes away second chances to do things better.
Yet, one thing Death cannot do is take away the memory of him. Another thing it cannot do is stop me from making me proud to have been his granddaughter.
Farewell, Granddaddy! Love you much!