One of the hardest parts of life is loss. Loss can come in many forms; loss of an item, loss of memory, and loss of a loved one. More forms may exist but these common few are enough to cause a multitude of emotions that sway the very balance of our inner psyches.
I recently found out that my grandfather passed away. This is the first time I’ve ever lost a loved one that I considered close to me. I have lost a pet, a friend on my baseball team, and distant relatives. I’ve never lost a loved one that held such a close place in my heart.
I don’t understand grief. The complicated mess of grief is far too extensive and complicated for my tiny mind to comprehend. Sadness is a common emotion I feel. Happiness is another. In fact, I often find myself going through the entire rainbow of emotions within a single hour, a myriad of thoughts and ideas plaguing those emotions. Very rarely do I feel grief.
When I laugh, the very fiber of my being shakes in uncontrollable glee. Some might even call the noise mellifluous in nature, contagious to all that hear it. Others might call it annoying or gruff, but it is understood that the laughter is a joyous occasion out of my control.
When I sigh in exasperation, stress has reached some kind of plateau, and one long exhaled breath is enough to start the calming process. A sigh of relief is exactly the same, however, the meaning and subtext behind the breath differs from the exacerbated breath of stress.
When I cry, it stems from the central part of my emotional scale. Those tears are rooted in happiness and in sadness. Tears of happiness shine brightly with vibrant meaning and understanding. Tears of sadness shine dimly, a ghostly pale undertone that controls the uncontrollable.
I can understand the laughter, the tears, and the sighs. I cannot understand grief. I understand that grief is a phenomenon that is necessary to the process of healing. I understand that grief affects every person in a different manner. I understand that grief emulates the most primal part of a person’s soul. Unfortunately, I cannot understand grief as an overall whole.
I don’t like to grieve. Let’s be honest, nobody really likes to grieve. Thankfully, I understand its necessity, and regardless of what I show on my outer shell, grief has overcome me in ways I cannot even begin to explain.
Regardless of how I try to act and feel, a part of my heart tells me to grieve. I am subsequently led to finding even the smallest of details noticeable, things I may never have seen in times past.
I noticed there are no pictures with just me and my grandfather. Plenty of pictures exist that show my grandfather, myself, and other people. But as an adult, I’m hard pressed to find a photo of just the two of us.
I realized that I very rarely called him to ask about his day. I almost never called him to see what he thought of a movie, his favorite television show, or how his knee was doing. Instead, I called him to ask for advice or help in repairing something. While it was always a pleasure speaking to him in those matters, why did I never call him to see how his day was going?
Sadness filled me to the brim when I realized I can’t remember the last time I told him I loved him. Honestly, I can’t remember ever saying, “I love you, grandpa.” Why? Why did I never tell him that I loved him? I loved him with all of my heart and then some, and I never told him.
I’m not back home. I am eight hours to the north of where my grandfather lived, and thus I have not come face to face with his death yet. When my sister called and told me that he had passed away, I was at the zoo with my girlfriend and her daughter. I tried to stay strong for those two when I got off the phone, but tears streaked down my cheek like a raging river. Nothing was held back for those first five minutes, although I tried very hard to do so.
I spent a lot of time thinking about it while we continued on through the zoo. Eventually, we made it back to the car, and I found it time to get behind a steering wheel and drive home. Emily tried to console me, but my mind was racing fast enough to make me not remember any part of the drive back to the house.
Upon arriving home, I instantly felt a wash of cold fear encompass my entire being. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I didn’t get to hug him. I didn’t get to say I loved him. How selfish of me.
It takes a selfish and unsympathetic human to immediately forget everything else affected by this kind of news. How was my grandmother handling it? How was my father? My uncles? My sister? They were there and had to take him to the hospital. They were there when the doctors announced his death. I was in Wisconsin. I was at the zoo. I wasn’t there to grieve and support my family.
How selfish am I? Why do I get to have a good time while they were there in his last moments? Who am I to make that choice?
It was only then that I realized everybody has a life of their own and grief was going to encompass all of us in different ways. It does nobody any good to think such angry, rage-filled thoughts.
Instead, I chose to remain strong. I chose to let my tears fall when they needed. I still haven’t made it back to Kansas yet. I still haven’t walked into his house without him there. I still haven’t hugged my grandmother, my sister, my father, or anybody else from that side of the family.
What will happen when his death becomes my reality?
For now, I have to accept that I am in the earliest stages of grief. I have to accept that I haven’t come face to face with his death yet. I have yet to see the eyes of my family and the utter despair found within them. I have yet to look at the empty chair in the living room of my grandparent’s house. I have yet to face the demons of grief.
I am selfish. I believe this selfish aspect to be rooted in my grief, although I am not trying to make excuses for these feelings or my actions. Instead, I only hope to grow from this grievous atrocity of death and despair. I only hope that my family is doing all right. I only hope that this tragedy will somehow bring us all together in some form of harmony.
The root, stem, and stability of this family has finally passed. It is in your memory where we now hold those values. The memory of everything you did for us is what holds this family together. Your strength, your courage, and your heart flows through every single one of us. You are our rock. You are the foothold that makes the Wooley name a reality. Your body may not grace this earth anymore, but your memory remains rooted in the very paths we walk every day.
I love you, grandpa. I hope you are no longer in any pain. I hope you are finally in bliss. I love you.
“Death is forever, but forever is always changing.”