Three people passed away this last week that I knew. Two older, one around my age. Two poor health, one unexpected. Death is a bastard, really. You can think you are prepared for it. But you never are.
One taught me that it is totally ok to be sassy and hang out with young folks doing extreme things when you, yourself, are not of that mind set. She was amazing and over the top and full of opinions that she didn’t care if you didn’t want her to share. She spoke, mischievously in a whisper. She was everyone’s mom-away-from-mom at the adventure resort where I worked once in the 90s and again, upon my return from NY, for a few years 2010-2012. She had this giggle-laugh that was contagious. Damn I am going to miss her.
Another was my Dad’s bud. They would occasionally meet at a little store not too far from my Dad’s house. They would sit and tell stories from their high school days – who played what sports, who chased what girl, who went into which branch of the military – they would tell big tales and small. Daddy called it “meeting at the liar’s corner”. Not being disrespectful, just thoroughly enjoying telling big tales in a small town with people who knew you when you were not old and sick. My Dad’s high school property was purchased by a coal company and then became relatively inaccessible (combine that with the age of most people who attended that school house – many had passed away). But they met every 1-2 years and told tales and marveled at who was alive and mourned who was passed. At one of these gatherings, while Ma was still alive, they had secret bets to see who could get who drunk first. Ma and Dad’s buddy were fierce competitors. One ended up asleep under the table. I ended up having to drive to pick my Parents up from the Owl’s Club where Daddy poured a rum and coke on me trying to convince me to have a drink (at 17! ha!). That group of people together, enjoying themselves, was one of the truest displays of friendship I can remember. It was a generation like no other.
The last one I did not know well, just in passing. I saw his daughter post a simple picture (she is grown, out of college) of him with her on his shoulders as a toddler. The joy in both their faces. He passed without warning. Heart attack. Such a strong young woman with her dad now gone. It made my heart ache for her, knowing the things she would want to share with him as she marries, has kids, ticks off accomplishments.
What did I learn from the passing of these three people of the community where I grew up:
- You cannot be prepared, but try your best to leave them better able to handle it.
- Be funny. Fuck whoever doesn’t “get” you. Be funny, be yourself, sass and all.
- When you have people you consider friends, hold them dear and tell the stories. Long after you are gone, you will be honored in the stories told by your friends, make sure they are good stories full of laughter and love and frivolity.
- Death is a business in which certain players (those who profit from it) put good people in a bind during their worst moments of their life. That should be criminal. Yet, there is no oversight in the funeral business. Life should not come down to a GoFundMe account to pay for our parents’ funeral expenses and not everyone has extra money to put back for life insurance or to plan for the end expenses. Burials should not financially break those who are grieving already. I saw it first hand with Daddy. Again, it should be criminal.
My advice to you:
Hold your loved ones close.
Tell them that you love them.
Have adventures with them, complete with pictures and videos.
Honor them in the stories they leave behind.