My first memory of death is January 1st, 1982. My papa died that night and it’s also the night Clemson won their National Football title. You know what is sad? I remember the Clemson championship game more than I remember anything about my papa dying. I wasn’t in the same town when he died because my parents left my sister and I with friends while they traveled to be with them. That’s it. I can’t recall the funeral. I can’t recall going to GA to even be at the funeral. I’m pretty sure at that time I became scarred and scared of death. The very idea of it.
Fast forward 9 years to 1991. My great grandfather known as grandpa died. This was my first real experience of someone close to me dying. I was living with grandpa, my nanny Beck (my mom’s mom) and aunt in Union, SC (dare I say I was attending school at the University of South Carolina- please don’t let that get out, my heart has always been with Clemson but USC let me go to school near my grandparents). He and I would take weekly trips to Burger King and to a classic car dealer. He was in his 80s but begged me to let him buy a 1967 convertible Fiat Spider (they had a green one and a red one). I would have but my nanny and aunt would have killed me. I still want that car- anyone know where I can get one??
One day sitting in English class he died. My uncle called to tell me and I’m pretty sure I cried for 48 hours. This wasn’t just my grandpa, he was my buddy- the person I hung out with daily. I had a pretty hard time with his death and still miss him. After that, I wanted nothing to do with death. If someone died I usually tried to stay away or just be funny- one of my defense mechanism is being silly and a comedian. Not in a rude way but in a way that I want everyone to smile and forget they are sad.
My nanny Beck died 4 years ago. She’s nanny Beck because my other grandmother is nanny Bradford. As a child I spent every summer with nanny Beck. She lived in Union, SC on 42 acres so it was usually a lot of fun spent in the woods. I was the only grandson so I was the most trouble… She loved all of us the same but I was the boy. 🙂 When she died, i went in denial right away. Didn’t cry. As a matter of fact on my way to Union I stopped and bought an iPhone. Another defense mechanism is to buy stuff. Dumb, but I did. I didn’t shed a tear until that coffin was going in the ground… then it hit me, she’s gone. I lost it. It hurt. Death had broken my heart again.
So, here I am in 2011 and facing death again. My nanny Bradford isn’t expected to make it the next few days. It’s not totally unexpected, she’s had heart issues and dementia for the past few years. This time it’s different. I’m here. I’ve been able to see her daily and have enjoyed her smiling when she see’s me and even using what little energy she has to hug my neck with one arm.
I’m not sure I’m dealing with this better but I feel like I am. Truthfully, nanny Bradford’s death will sting. She’s the last grandparent I have, the last great grandparent that Emma and Emerson will have seen and known. That makes my heart hurt the most. I wanted my kids to know both of my grandmothers- they both lived and loved and thankfully passed that on to my mom and dad.
One other thing- because my mom’s mom died a few years back and about 3 hours away I didn’t see her last days. I didn’t see my mom and how she interacted with her mom. I know they had some time together but I don’t know what it was like. These past few days I’ve seen my dad interacting with his mom and one of the hardest things in this world to hear is your dad telling his mom that it’s ok to go… it is ok. She’s lived a great life and her body just can’t go on.
I’m not sure this whole post has a point so I’m going to make one right now… ready.
Love your friends and family. Tell them you love them. Enjoy the time you get to spend with them. Enjoy the loud and aggravating holidays. Love, love and love some more..