Death

Sometimes I wonder what kills us first, if we manage to avoid accidents and malicious assholes and disease. Our bodies breaking down, or our memories becoming too heavy to continue carrying?

I am 27. I have more memories than I could count, and many of them weigh heavily. I made mistakes I cannot rectify. So many mistakes. I have a squishy marshmallow heart. I don't even know if I believe in love, but I know I still love people who don't think about me any more.

I wish I could erase some of you from my brain.

for a few years now, it seems I've been constantly coping with death. it's getting really fucking old.

first, it was my uncle. well, great-uncle. he'd been sick with various diseases -- the biggest of which being hep c and emphysema -- for years, all stemming from huge amounts of smoking and illicit drug use in his younger years. and he was only in his early 50s! despite all this he was still a pretty happening dude, and one of my favorite people. I used to love sitting with him and listening to/talking about music. he used to drum, so when my first band did our first ep I brought it over for him to hear and all he could talk about was the drum mix. "where's the fucking drums?!? hear that floor tom? that should be louder. that roll should sound like THUNDER!!" he called me wild child. flower child. he loved me and I loved him. I was with him the day he died. the house was full of people, and my aunt (his sister) was sitting there talking to him like he was a 2 year old, in that voice that lilts up at the end of every sentence so it sounds like some kind of calming question, when really it's just dumb and condescending. I remember she got up to go outside and pretend to cry or something, and I sat down next to my uncle, saying, "i'm not going to talk to you like that." he rolled his eyes and managed a small smile. I remember stroking his arm and telling him I loved him, and him closing his eyes as tears rolled down. I didn't stay much longer. I got the call not long after i'd left, that he was gone.

one down.

that was in the fall of 2009.

fast forward to December, and my paternal grandfather was in the hospital. I've already written about the day he died and how I was standing right there next to him, my dad on the other side of the bed across from me, so I won't put it here, but...yeah. that was the first time i'd ever actually watched a person take their last breath. and it wasn't pretty. I felt his heart stop, I had my hand on his chest when it did. my dad asked me if I thought he was still in the room. I asked what he meant, and he said, "you know, like...above us."

uh...I have no idea, dad.

so the rest of the day was spent reeling between trying to process what in the fuck had just happened in front of me and pretending nothing had happened at all... feigning some kind of normalcy by going grocery shopping and putting up the Christmas tree and playing guitar hero with my kid. I fell asleep on the couch for a while, completely exhausted.

but then the phone rang, and my other grandfather was gone as well.

massive heart attack. dead before he hit the floor. at the house in florida.

2 in one day, folks. 2 in one day.

now we're up to 3.

February 2010, my favorite great-aunt, the one who proclaimed everything on earth to be beautiful and fabulous, who insisted that my band play our family reunion in 2003 and made everyone pass a hat around and give us money (hahaha), who made gorgeous dolls by molding and firing the parts in her garage and sewing and stuffing and dressing and painting them all herself (resulting in a really creepy doll room in her house), who had another entire room of her house filled with live birds (it was literally a room-sized bird cage), and who most importantly always made me feel like I was beautiful and special and generally.....important to the world... she died, too. after a lengthy battle with cancer.

now let's fast forward to august of 2010, and you have my dad's massive heart attack. my dad and I were never close...we'd really only started hanging out in a semi-positive way over the last couple of years beforehand. we went to our first concert together in august of 2008, and it was probably the single best experience I ever had with him. then he'd kind of bonded more with me since we'd both been standing right next to his father when he died the previous year. so we had a very tumultuous past, but it was slowly getting better.

when the heart attack first happened, he was in the hospital for about a month and a half. I touched him more in that month than I had in the last 10 years. he held my hand, he hugged me, he told me he loved me, all that. the day before he died, in November, will probably always haunt me. i'm a lot better about it now, but it is uh...yeah. it's rough to think about that day.

what are we up to now? 5?

the husband and I started joking about the "death parade" marching its way thru my family. it was a way to cope.

then...it seemed to settle down.

there was a definite aftermath, especially because of my dad... my kids were only 5 and 2 at the time, and while I had been able to shield them from my grandfathers and my aunt (they didn't really know any of them), they had been at the hospital -- and they knew my dad. there was no getting around it...we had to talk about it, and we had to talk about it honestly. I didn't see the point in sugarcoating it for them. I don't believe in Christianity or heaven or hell or any of that bullshit, and I definitely wasn't going to fill my kids' heads with it, so I was kind of at a loss when it came to comforting, motherly things to tell them...I just told them the truth: I don't know where we go when we die. some people think this, some people think that. some people don't think anything happens at all. daddy and I aren't sure, so your guess is as good as ours or anyone else's.

my oldest concluded that dead people go to the stars, like all the great kings of the past in the lion king. I told him that was beautiful, and if he wanted to believe that, he should believe it with all his heart. he said he liked thinking that because then he could still see his grandpa. and his oma. and the dog.

oh yeah...our family dog died the month after my dad. animals were not spared the death parade!

it took a long time before I could talk about my dad in normal conversation without one or both of my kids appending, "your dad died," to the end of every mention. that was...eesh.

in may of last year, my grandmother died...my mom's mother. she had also been ravaged by emphysema, but unlike my uncle (her brother), she'd had a lung transplant my freshman year of high school which had given her her life back for about 15 years. she was...damn. the matriarch of our family. not the most emotionally involved lady on earth, but definitely one of the strongest, smartest, most independent women I ever met. you did not fuck with this woman. she could see thru a bullshitter from a mile away, and she would have none of your tomfoolery. she hadn't been feeling well for months, and it had become obvious that the lung was giving out. granted, there aren't even solid statistics for people who make it over 10 years out from a lung transplant, much less 15, so she definitely had no complaints about the length of life added by the surgery. but she was still suffocating to death. the night my grandmother died, my mother had been giving her morphine every hour from the "death box" given by hospice. both of my mom's brothers were there, along with my cousins and brothers. we played wii bowling and took turns sitting in the bedroom with my grandmother. I sat there for while watching her, counting the seconds between her breaths. sometimes 13-15 seconds would pass between them, and each time I hoped upon hope she wouldn't breathe again so this would be over for her. the rattle was the same as my grandfather's...wetter sounding, but still loud as holy hell.

if you've never heard a death rattle in person, I sincerely hope you never do. you will remember that sound for the rest of your fucking life.

I checked on her after one of our bowling games, and her skin was cold. I went into the dining room and told my mom she was cold, she said to put an extra blanket over her. I did. I wiped her face and pushed her hair back. my uncle came in and took her temperature...it was in the 80s. I left the room. maybe 10 minutes later, she was gone. my uncle, his wife, and my oldest cousin were in there with her...I couldn't bear to do it.

so now we're up to 6. 7 if you count the dog.

after all this, it looked like I was finally going to get a chance to calm down and process some of this stuff, and figure out how to live my life without drowning in constant grief...or more accurately, stuffing my grief down so far inside me and shutting my emotions down in certain respects so tightly that I would be unable to cry even if I watched a car run over an old lady right in front of me. I saw a psychic. I lit candles. I felt better. I finally got to a point where I could talk about my dad without feeling like my chest was going to explode. I went with my mom while she got her first tattoo, a magnolia on her wrist...my grandmother's favorite flower. I was finally able to go to work and have normal conversations without feeling like my entire body was screaming inside itself. my friends had babies, I was happy about them.

slowly, life got better. it moved on.

then april of this year came, and then may, and now we're back in the parade, marching along to the beat, all of us grieving at once. up until this point it had just been me having to learn to deal with all this stuff... but now, it's all 4 of us. myself, I feel like I can handle it. I was much more shaken by this, honestly, and I think it's just a combination of my own feelings mixed with how much I ache seeing my husband and children having to deal with this.

my kids were not very close with my dad.

they were VERY close with my husband's dad.

my husband and I were both in the room when his father passed. again I heard the rattle. again I watched someone I love take their last breath. I tried to hold his hand, but it was sticky from the medicine and IV fluids seeping out thru his pores, so I put a blanket over his skin and held onto him that way. my husband's 2 best friends were there with us, which helped so much more than either of them know.

that evening, we had to go home and sit our kids down, now 8 and 5, and tell them what had happened. my husband sat in the chair across from the couch where the boys and I were seated, and just came out and told them: "you know grandpa has been really sick lately. and tonite, well, he died..." my 8-year-old instantly burst into tears. REAL tears...the hot kind that sting your cheeks and just keep rolling down no matter what you do. all I could do was hold him while he proclaimed this to be the worst day of his life, adding, "I've never HAD a worst day of my life before!!" I don't think i'll ever forget the pain emanating from my child in that moment...or the pain I felt at not being able to do one single goddamn fucking thing about it besides hold him. I couldn't bring his grandpa back. I couldn't feel this pain for him. I couldn't carry this with ME instead of him, like I had been all this time with everyone else. my 5-year-old cried too, but moreso because I think he thought that's what he was supposed to do...he didn't really know how to react.

I spoke at the funeral. again...feeling like my chest was going to explode at any minute, but as usual, holding it together.

I still haven't cried.

I can't see references to death without feeling like crying.

God damn, it has been a bad year to be my family member.

Thoughts of suicide. Tiny ones, but noticeable.

I may be in twenty places right now emotionally, but at least I am fucking alive. I am not dead. I am not fucking dead. That's all you need to be alive. "Not fucking dead."

Sometimes I wish I could start over, you know, maybe I believe in reincarnation. But I doubt I'd be better off being born now than I was then. It's a silly thing to be prideful about, but it's a feeling at least.

When I was in middle school, one of my classmates died. When it happened, there was something like a day of mourning where classes were canceled and we all got to sit in groups and talk about him.

I walked in on a group of about a dozen kids where two girls were kind of leading a discussion along the lines of, "This was his time. We should be happy. God wanted him in heaven right now for some reason. Everyone should stop crying because it's god's will. We just don't know why god wanted him to die now. But it's a good thing. We shouldn't be sad."

I couldn't help but butt in. "It's a sad thing that he died and it's okay to feel bad. It's normal to mourn when someone that you know and like dies. You don't have to come up with excuses for why it's actually a good thing and you should be happy."

The bitch actually said back to me, "Um, [Blackbox], we're all Christian here, and we don't really care what you have to say. Why don't you go to one of the other groups or just stay quiet?"

I just shrugged, smiled, and went on a stroll through the hallways.

We live for an instant, only to be swallowed in complete forgetfulness and the void of infinite time on this side of us. Think how many ere now, after passing their life in implacable enmity, suspicion, hatred... are now dead and burnt to ashes.

Of the life of man the duration is but a point, its substance streaming away, its perception dim, the fabric of the entire body prone to decay, and the soul a vortex, and fortune incalculable, and fame uncertain. In a word all things of the body are as a river, and the things of the soul as a dream and a vapour; and life is a warfare and a pilgrim's sojourn, and fame after death is only forgetfulness. Everything existing is already disintegrating and changing... everything is by nature made but to die. The length of one's life is irrelevant, for look at the yawning gulf of time behind thee and before thee at another infinity to come. In this eternity the life of a baby of three days and the life of a Nestor of three centuries are as one.

To desire is to be permanently disappointed and disturbed, since everything we desire in this world is empty and corrupt and paltry.

  • Marcus Aurelius

Is it wrong that death doesn't really bother me? My grandmother is being put down today (Really they've just stopped keeping her alive, but same difference), and I should care a lot more than I currently am.

My grandmother is the only person who has ever shown me unconditional love. In fact, she's the only person that I can be sure ever truly loved me.

Yet there I was, looking at the still-breathing body of my grandmother, tubes in her everywhere, machines beeping and buzzing all around, listening to a cardboard cutout of a chaplain giving generic last rites (Apparently they didn't have a rabbi handy, or no one cared to inform the hospital or my grandmother's synagogue that she needed one).

The whole situation sickened me, but not because my grandmother was passing. It was mostly the degradation she had to put up with in her final moments. The nurses treated her with very little respect even when taking her off support. The chaplain didn't even care to learn her name before entering the room, yet claimed as soon as he entered that "he's been thinking about us a lot", and also messed up his last rites speech a few times. You'd think he'd done it enough times to not trip up every few words.

She was 88, and it's a shame that she had to suffer the way she did. Not just in the hospital, but the later years of her life as well. Besides the medical problems and dealing with the death of everyone that you know that most elderly have to deal with, like many seniors, her family (Myself included) ignored her. To be fair, she called everyone several times a day, but was it so difficult for us to take a half hour or so out of our lives to humor a lonely old woman?

I don't want to grow old. Once either balding or erectile dysfunction kicks in, I'll promptly get my will and last requests in order, and find a peaceful way to go.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sad that my grandmother is gone. I loved her dearly, though I didn't show it as much as I could have, and should have. I know she forgave me; it's that unconditional love I mentioned before.

Anyway, I could keep going, but I've said everything I needed to. I'm just venting. Thanks, Ether.

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I understand. I also think that you experienced the situation in your own way and the hallmark has created an obscenely depressing scene that is supposed to accompany the death of a loved one. When my great grandmother passed away in February, I recognized that she was in pain and had lived out to see her last child home to visit her and she was ready. I am sure your grandmother understood you as well in that last moment and loved your dearly as always.

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So I went back to my old high school today, only to find out one of my friend had died. Ain't this a bitch. I just saw her about a month ago. She was fine and happy. I wish I would have talked to her longer, but we were going in opposite directions and she was on the phone. God, this fucking sucks. She was always so sweet, and nice to me. I know we weren't close, but it still hurts to know that she's dead. This is the second time I've had to deal with a friend of mine dieing at this school. I don't know if I can take much more. If I react this way to someone who I'm not close to dieing, I don't know how I'll ever deal if one of my best friends die. God this sucks.

personally, I don't fear it. it would suck to miss out on the rest of my life but as soon as I'm over I'm done and my feelings don't really come into it.

I fear one death, that of my lover. just thinking about it makes me feel sick and hollow because I know I'm so emotionally crippled, so dependent on them now for my happiness and stability that I wouldn't be able to carry on. life is a dark and meaningless place without someone to share it with, and I could never trust so completely again as I do now.

The actually idea of dieing doesn't scare me. What scares me is everyone that I care about dieing and being left alone. I have always had my family, and the thought of them not being there terrifies me. I could not deal with them dieing, but still I don't want to die before them because I don't want them to suffer. At times I think that it would be easier to just distance myself from my family so that it will be easier to accept if they die, but I know that it's impossible for me to do that. So I guess I'll just have to deal with it.

I only fear two things about death-

1.) dying before i'm done with at least most of the things I wanted to accomplish in my life, which is admittedly a pretty variable scale so there's always room for more, but i'm flexible on this, hence why I said "at least most"

Enough anyway, that I don't feel my existence was too pointless. I want to make some impact, i'm just not sure on how big a scale.

(I suppose that could be considered 'premature death' as another entry put it)

2.) ...and the pain you'd experience right before you feel nothing. I know in a lot of cases, it'd be minimal. But... i'm a total, total wuss when it comes to pain tolerance and think too hard about really how much each dying method would actually feel, in graphic detail.

But the whole no more living part, or not knowing what comes after... Those don't bother me any.

Death is just an endless sleep you never wake up from.

Afterlives are the dreams you have in this sleep. Me, I never remember my dreams.

I don't fear death, I just fear pre-mature death. I don't want my time with anyone I love cut short. I don't want my parents to have to go through my dying before them. That's why I fear dying now.

I'm also tired now. I believe by the time I die, I'll be ready to give it up.

I don't understand why people are so upset by the prospect of death. Is it simply because they don't understand or can't anticipate what happens afterwards? Isn't that the purpose of religion? Oh well.... after my suicidal streak, I find death a friend and allie, nothing I really need to be too terribly concerned about. I am content with my life, my goals, my standings on things, my "religion" if you wish to term it thus, and I understand that I won't live forever. This, however, does not bother me. Occassionally it's better than ought else, so, whatever....

I understand loss.

When I was a freshman, my idol, a guy that I had been connected to for most of my life through other friends but had never really talked to for fear of looking like some dumb little kid, died in a car accident. A head on collision.

I went to his showing on the same night as the final night of the high school play. I couldn't walk up to the casket alone. His GRANDMOTHER led me. I had to leave the showing early for the play. I played the lead part in that play. I walked from the funeral parlor, sobbing, in hysterics, to the school. It was about a four minute walk, and the further I got from the parlor, the more hysterical I became.

By the time I reached the school, I could no longer remember my lines. During every pause in the show, the image of him in the casket, his face covered in enough makeup to make him look like a porcelain doll, popped into my mind and new tears started to spring to my eyes.

I even remember when I found out that he was dead. I was with my sister and her friends. The youngest in the group, getting to drink with people 4, 5, 6 years older than me. I remember the pot smoke made the room look foggy. I remember a friend rushing in my back door and saying, "Nick's dead." I remember we thought it was a joke. Not a funny joke, but still, a joke.

I remember when we realized it wasn't.

I remember when I got a call from Methodist Hospital the summer before my senior year. My sister had been in a car accident.

Thoughts of my friend Nick filled my head.

My sister lived, but I can't help thinking, what if she hadn't?