My last remaining grandpa has died. We weren’t very close; in fact, I mentioned being annoyed by him in my last post. I’ve seen him a couple times in the past several years, and there was always a mental, “Ugh, time to go say ‘hi’ to grandpa,” with an immediate twinge of guilt, followed by a roll of disgust as I smelled his 70 years of cigarette smoke and took in what that does to your skin from close-up.
But anybody’s death makes you think of the scope of a life and the brevity of mortality. His was no different. Wakes are usually an even more stressful event than a party for my introvert self, especially because there was no alcohol. I’m expected to sport the proper grieving visage as I accept near-strangers’ and actual strangers’ condolences all day long. The only people this is more awkward for is the strangers who are giving it.
My idea of a good ‘goodbye’ is none at all. I prefer to slip out of a party unnoticed or move to another country after a breakup. I would love it if I never attended another funeral in my life. Death is inevitable, but the fanfare surrounding it, in my opinion, is not.
I told my mom that if I die before she does, I want her to cremate me or donate my body to science. She was horrified by the idea. I just think the first is more economical–there’s no need to pick out a casket, pay for it, or find a place to bury the body I’m no longer using. The second would help future doctors hone their skills. I waver on the second option though, because the idea of medical students joking about my naked, dead body, a normal thing in light of the weight of such a job, makes me kind of sad.
Despite my feelings of dread surrounding wakes, this one showed me the importance of roots. I have made it my career to never grow roots, living in ten different places in the past ten years. And I’ve liked it that way: no one to truly miss, it’s guaranteed physical and emotional independence, which I thrive on. But I crawled out of my introvert troll mentality and talked to the near-strangers, and was appreciative of what they showed me.
I jumped in on a conversation my mom was having with a couple of these strangers. I heard the man say his last name, the name of a boy I went to school with who I heard had died of cancer a few years ago. I asked if they were related, and he said he was his son. I told him that his son and I had gone to high school together, that he was fun, that I was surprised to hear he had died so young. Miniscule things, but the truth. His dad told me how important it was to him to hear things about his son, that people had thought well of him, hadn’t forgotten about him. He told me that he had been in a terrible car accident a couple years before he died, that he was told he would never walk again. He worked for years to be able to walk again, only to die of cancer. He said he was still working through why God would allow that to happen to someone, that he would probably never would. I agreed.
I talked to a lot of old people who were family friends of my grandpa. I didn’t have a clue who they were, but they all asked if I was my sister, said they remembered me as a baby or a 7-year-old, that one summer we went to that lake with those families. I talked to the grandmother of the man my mom wants to hook me up with. Apparently we got along great when we were in kindergarten. Despite how annoying it is to be hooked up, it is refreshing to be remembered as a child. Most of the people in my daily life haven’t even known me for a year. It was comforting to be part of this big web of people, some I didn’t even know of, but who knew of me. It took a wake to bring to my mind just how intricately our lives are laced together. As I think about leaving for Brazil again in a week, it’s nice to be reminded that I come from somewhere, that I am part of this web.
My cousin told me that her children had been in the room with my grandpa when he died. I at first thought that for her sheltered kids, that was probably traumatizing. But she said she took them to the hospital at their insistence, even though she knew he was doing poorly. They fluttered around him, their little girl breath in his ear, talking about angels and heaven and gold and little girl things, and he died. I think that must have been a nice way to go.