Earlier today, as I was heading to my cousin’s birthday party at Dave & Busters (did I mention she turned 32 years old? some of us will forever be kids at heart – myself included), I got a text from a good friend of mine. I wasn’t prepared to read the message that came through and as I read “my grandma died today”, my heart sank to my belly and I stopped midway to my car, eyes brimming with tears.
As the words sunk in, I felt myself fill up with sympathy for her situation. I also noticed how my thoughts immediately jumped to my own grandma (who is still living but is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s so I’m really unsure of how long she’s got with us) and that death will inevitably take her from us soon too.
Death is a pretty foreign concept in my world. I’ve only met with it on several very brief occasions; my first encounter was at 4 when my dad’s mother passed away and at around 14 when my great-grandmother passed away. Then there was the time we lost our family pet dog Kesha to old age, which I wasn’t around for because I no longer lived with my parents. All those times, it didn’t feel like it happened to me. The first time, I was too young to understand. It only occurred to me that grandma was not coming back and that she was actually dead when I was 12 years old. I remember the realization so clearly; I had gotten punished for something and was alone in my room, trying to find things to do so I didn’t lose my mind from boredom. I grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil and started doodling houses with trees and picket fences, something she and I would do before she passed. As I continued on with the drawings, I thought of HER. I remember crying as I started to become aware that grandma wasn’t with us anymore, sobbing and whimpering through my tears how much I missed and loved her. Eight years after she had passed, I had my own private ceremony where I grieved her departure from this world.
The second encounter proved to be depressing and rightfully so, as I bared witness to men crying (it’s unusual to see men cry in our family) as we said our goodbyes to great-grandma Malka. She was a powerful woman, a beacon of light and strength for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It was my very first funeral, my very first time that I saw a dead body in a casket, and the very first time seeing grandpa cry. Seeing him so fragile and heartbroken was what shook me the most and I will never forget that image of him.
Other than that, I feel like I’ve been protected from death. I’ve had a peaceful (and fortunate) life thus far and majority of my family members are still around. If they’re not, I was never close with them enough to be affected by their passing. So my friend’s grandmother passing today is a gentle reminder for what’s to come. It’s a reminder that as I get older, it is something I need to start embracing, rather than hide from it. It’s a reminder that we are only visitors here and everyone’s time will eventually be up, including mine. So what we do with our time matters, because it’s so fucking valuable.
Lastly, it’s a reminder to live honestly, bravely, and to forgive because we never know when our time is up.