The passing of a loved one is never easy.
But it is inevitable. Death, I mean.
One way or another, our little candles are gonna get snuffed out eventually by that mean ol’ Grim.
Some people don’t worry about death. Particularly guys named Merle who’s favourite phrases run along the lines of “Hold mah beer while I try this.”
Yet, others seem to worry about it constantly, letting the very idea of death prevent them from ever living in the first place. These people hold themselves back from trying new things and experiences out of fear that the earth will inexplicably swallow them up whole one day.
And, of course, snuggled up between the extremes, is the vast majority of us.
We, a collective we, don’t necessarily worry about the big “D” so much as keep a watchful eye on the old coot as we go about our daily lives. Not to say that we won’t try just about any miracle cure out there to try and shake him at every corner. Anti-aging creams, pills by the bucket-full, and although completely ineffective yet still wildly popular among greying males, sports cars.
And though the odds are small that Death himself will personally come for you, me, or even that weird kid from down the street who just stares at people while licking the outside of a banana, chances are still unsettlingly good that you’ll know something about or are somehow connected to almost any recently deceased person who shows up in the obituaries.
Death is everywhere. It’s just a part of life.
I sometimes imagine two opposing figures, Life and Death, skipping across an open meadow hand in hand, Life creating an abundance of bouncing bunnies out of thin air as they go, Death casually poking them dead with a long, bony finger.
It seems all so futile sometimes.
We’re born, we live, we die. What’s the point? And if you include some of life’s more demanding irritations such as work or trying to deal with your phone services provider, it becomes really easy to start asking the big question:
What’s the point of being on this silly blue hunk of space rock anyway?
At the risk of sounding like an after school special (remember those? Me either,) the answer to that is easy, just oh so simple.
The most important thing to enjoy during our time here on Earth is the time we spend with others.
And I sure as heck don’t mean just humans in general. Now, I may be biased, but I think the majority of Biography of a Nobody readers are enlightened, super-intelligent beings who would agree with me in saying that, as a general species, the human race is an insidious, opportunistic bunch of disease-filled parasites bent on reducing the planet to ashes.
It’s a bleak way to look at people, I know. But that’s the impression I get some days, particularly when I spend far more time than is healthy on social media and floating around the archives of youtube like a voyeuristic piece of flotsam.
But, really, disenfranchised viewpoints notwithstanding, that’s just how I am. I’ve never felt a deep-seated need to be continuously surrounded by people. Some folks do, but not me. I don’t care for the crowded feel of big cities where the oversaturation of humans means that the already recycled molecules of oxygen remaining in the air need to be shared between the populace.
“Okay, buddy, you’ve had your turn, now let me have a go at that oxygen. Give it.”
Guy with puffy cheeks shakes his head. “Nnh nnh.”
By now you must be asking yourself Didn’t this dork say earlier that “The most important thing to enjoy during our time here on Earth is the time we spend with others.”?
Yes, yes I did.
What? Then why the f-
Don’t interrupt me. I like people. I really do. And most of the ones I do like I really love. I just reserve my affections for those whom I know personally and are important to me.
No offense to say, Mr. Dicaprio or Ms. Kardashian, but I just don’t give a fistful of fecal fuzz about them. They could get hit by a rather sturdy public transit bus tomorrow and it wouldn’t affect me in the least.
God. I really do sound like a complete a-hole.
What I mean is, I have no intimate connection with these people. I don’t know them personally, I’ve never met them. And though they hold a certain celebrity status among the general public, I personally don’t feel they’ve contributed anything remarkable to the planet as a whole and are thus unworthy of my attention.
So, anyway, nuts to them. Should they happen to have an unfortunate encounter with the number forty-two bus in the near future, I just won’t have it in me to care.
However (I can see some of your mouths opening up to object, just chill,) that doesn’t mean I won’t be sympathetic towards the people who do care about Leo and Kim.
They are loved by people, to be sure. Yes, by millions of fans, of course, but more importantly, they are loved by close, personal friends and family, just like all of us. At least most of us.
My point is, nearly everyone’s been loved by someone at some point in their lives. Certainly liked, at the very least.
And, regardless of who such a person is, there is a very likely chance that their death will ultimately leave a bit of a hole in the lives and hearts of others.
Not very long ago, my wife and I have had the misfortune of experiencing such a loss ourselves. Though, to be fair, the loss was far greater for my dear wife.
Her Oma passed away a few weeks back.
She was a wonderful person to know. If you have an image of the quintessential grandmother in your mind, of a kind, generous, caring and loving grandmother, you wouldn’t be far off. Just add her feisty demeanor and proud Dutch lineage to the mix, and you’ve got Oma.
To my wife, Oma was one of the most important people in her life. She’s told me many times of her favourite childhood memories with her grandmother, always with absolute love in her voice.
I had the profound privilege of knowing this wonderful woman as well, though not as intimately as my wife did, of course. During holiday visits and special family events, I always enjoyed spending time talking and playing dice with Oma (who often accused me of cheating). My wife and I are blessed to have been able to share our wedding day with her and enjoyed many visits full of laughter, perfect food and loving conversation. Most importantly, our young children were able to spend time in her arms and in her care, and know her smile.
Oma’s health had slowly been deteriorating over the last few years, and her passing could not exactly be considered unexpected. Still, her passing occurred far too quickly in the minds of those who loved her.
And, thankfully (I don’t do so well with sad, serious gatherings,) times have changed in the way people now mourn the loss of a loved one. It seems that way to me, at least.
It used to be that a sombre darkness would press on the shoulders of any survivors like a damp blanket, somehow even suppressing the unintentional upturn of a rogue, memory-induced smile.
But now, now, funerals are sometimes called celebrations of life, allowing for a much more natural environment for grieving. Funerals now seem to welcome everyone together to remember the wonderful times and memories unique to the departed, rather than just dwelling on their loss.
Oh, sure, there are still lots of tears and sadness as people come to terms with the sudden void created within their lives. That’s natural, and all part of the healing process.
But when surrounded by other people who shared the same love for that particular someone, happiness and joy brought on by the recollection of cherished memories becomes amplified and fills us all to the point where it feels like the very person who was pulled from our lives just moments before becomes an even greater presence in death. Take Oma’s love of hummingbirds. She positively loved them.
Shortly after returning home from the funeral, my wife was watering her various flower pots and planters adorning the perimeter of our patio. Gardening is a form of meditation for her, and I am certain her thoughts were heavy with childhood memories of Oma.
Now, I didn’t think that these little wonders even lived in our area just east of the mountains, but to our surprise, an elegant turquoise hummingbird suddenly zipped into view, hovered right in front of my wife for a moment as if to say hello, then sped off.
You can bet my wife felt very close to Oma right then, thinking of all the wonderful times they spent together.
Like I said before, the most important thing to enjoy during our time here on Earth is the time we spend with others.
See? See how I came full circle there? Took a while, but I got there.
It’s crucial to not take the important people in your life for granted. I know I’m certainly guilty of it myself. But I urge you, take the time to be with them. If you don’t have the time, make the time. Learn as much as you can about them, their passions, their dreams, their favourite activities and things. Find out everything you can about them because, one day, the chance will no longer be there.
Interesting side note:
The day Oma passed away, my wife was holding our little guy in her arms.
She had been in contact with her folks and relatives that entire week via phone conversations and Facebook group chats, keeping abreast of her grandmother’s rapidly diminishing condition.
As my wife walked by a set of framed pictures hanging in the upper hallway, our little guy, in her arms and peeking over her shoulder, spoke up.
“That’s Oma,” he said, pointing at one of our most recent pictures of her.
My wife, slightly taken aback by this comment, turned to look at the photograph. He’s never pointed her out before. But the strange thing was, my wife had hardly even been talking to our son about Oma’s condition to begin with. And his pointing her out was an unprecedented experience, to be sure.
“That’s right, that’s Oma,” my wife said, a bit of sadness in her voice, yet also pleased that our son would know her by sight.
He had met Oma on a few occasions, but we were never certain how much of an impression she’d made on him. Apparently it was greater than we thought.
When he was born, Oma knitted our little guy a small green and cream coloured blanket. To this day, it is undoubtedly his most favourite thing on the planet. Since birth, he would thread his fingers between the gaps in the yarn’s pattern, soothing himself to sleep. We originally presented that blanket to him as his “Oma blanket”, but he’s since affectionately just called it “Oma.”
Until that day, that kid has never referred to Oma, the person, directly. Oma, to him, was always one and the same, his blanket.
“Oma,” he continued, seeming to weigh the value of the name. “Like that made my blanket.”
My wife, in wonder, stared at him. Finally, “Yes, that’s right. Oma made that blanket for you.”
They both stood in the bedroom hallway for a moment, taking in Oma’s smiling picture. Our little guy then turns to his mother, gives her the kind of pure loving hug that only a child can, and says a handful of words I am certain my wife will never forget.
“Hmm, I love Oma.”
My wife held him tight, appreciating the new, idealistic young life in her arms.
Seconds later, her phone lit up with messages conveying Oma’s passing.
Take care, Oma. We miss you, and look forward to being with you once again. Keep those dice warm for us.